Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide and is the leading cause of long-term disability.
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular disease and stroke, wants stroke survivors to know that while life may be different after a stroke, rehabilitation can help them regain some independence, decrease chances of another stroke and provide new goals to work toward.
The American Stroke Association teaches the acronym F.A.S.T. as an easy way to remember the most common stroke warning signs and how to respond: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911.
For more about stroke and how quickly it can strike, read Brad Hadley’s story.
Monday, March 12th was like any other day for 51-year-old Brad Hadley.
He was lacing up his sneakers and getting ready for his morning jog in his South Kingston neighborhood.
That’s when Brad suddenly felt the onset of a pounding headache.
“It happened so fast, the headache just got worse and worse and the pain was excruciating,” Hadley said. He called his girlfriend, Ann Phillips, and she asked him to call 911, but Hadley shrugged it off. She then called Brad’s neighbor and friend for help.
A bit later, Brad called another friend and explained his symptoms. His friend called 911 and it was just in time according to Brad. “By that time, I was in pretty bad pain, I was vomiting and just about to pass out.”
An ambulance rushed to his home and took Brad to South County Hospital. After performing a CAT scan, the doctor noticed he had a brain bleed. He was rushed to Rhode Island Hospital.
Brad spent the next twelve days in the neurological ICU. “It was a random blood vessel in the brain that let loose,” he said. The father of two, Hadley has no family history of stroke.
Over nearly the next two weeks, he underwent two procedures (angiograms), but his doctors couldn’t pinpoint where the bleeding was coming from. “Fortunately, they didn’t have to drill a hole in my head, the blood eventually drained on its own.”
There are warning signs for stroke. Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination. And sudden severe headache with no known cause.
“The symptoms came on pretty fast,” said Hadley. “It was just 45 minutes from the start of the headache until I was completely disabled.” According to Hadley’s doctors, the excruciating pain he felt was from the blood vessel releasing into his brain, filling up in his head and spreading down his neck and into his shoulders.
Hadley works as a National Accounts Manager for SAIA LTL Freight. It’s a demanding job that his him covering New England. When he was finally released from the hospital, he couldn’t fly or take any medication that contains blood thinners.
It was a tough time, because Brad was still suffering from headaches. “There was a lot of hesitation when I finally got out of the hospital and got to go home,” he said. “I was worried about driving for the first time after the stroke, and worried how I would do at home.”
But Brad faithfully put his time and energy into his physical therapy. And that effort paid off. “For the first time since the stroke in March, I feel I’m back to about 95 percent of where I was before this happened,” he said.
He’s back to jogging, playing in his softball league and spending time with his family and friends.
And he has a message for everyone that might hesitate before calling for help if something feels off. “When you see the signals, don’t think you’re invincible and think it can’t happen to you. Listen to your body and don’t wait to call to get help.”
For more information and a full list of the stroke warning signs, visit www.StrokeAssociation.org/WorldStrokeDay.