When I had a stroke in 2016, I never dreamed that these two would become the faces of stroke, as well. This post is written with much love because I was devastated by Luke Perry’s death…hearing about his death forced me to face many emotions that I had buried deep after my stroke. Emilia Clarke’s character on “Game of Thrones” is an icon of empowerment and fierceness, but her real-life battle reveals her true strength and bravery.  Please take what I’ve written to heart and remember, strokes can happen to anyone. We are all proof of that truth. Here are my thoughts:

Please look carefully at the faces of these two stroke victims. You probably even know who they are. Luke Perry, on the left, suffered an ischemic stroke in early March and did not survive. Emilia Clarke, on the right, suffered a hemorrhagic stroke in 2011 when she was only 24 years old. She survived and is now sharing her story.

According to the American Stroke Association, nearly 800,000 suffer a stroke every year in the US alone. Stroke is the 5th leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability. While many may believe strokes are something for elderly people to worry about, these two lovely people show that stroke is NO respecter of age, gender, or financial status. Strokes can happen to anyone and they do EVERY.SINGLE.DAY. I had a stroke in 2016 and it was probably the scariest event of my life.

There are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Over 80 percent of strokes are ischemic and are caused by a clot blocking a blood vessel to the brain. This blockage causes a loss of oxygen-rich blood to the brain tissues and can result in the death of cells in the brain. Hemorrhagic strokes, such as Emilia Clarke suffered, are caused when a brain aneurysm bursts or a weak blood vessel leaks. The resulting blood creates swelling and pressure in the brain causing cell and tissue death in the area of the brain that is affected.

As I mentioned earlier, strokes can happen to anyone. Please memorize four letters (FAST) and three numbers (911):

F: Facial drooping or facial numbness on one side
A: Arm numbness or weakness on one side or the arm drifts down
S: Speech is slurred, absent, or the words make no sense
T: Time to call 911!

As soon as you think you or anyone is having a stroke, call 911 immediately! Be sure to tell the dispatcher that you think the person may be having a stroke and write down the exact time you FIRST noticed the symptoms because this will be important when making treatment decisions at the hospital.

Over the years, as an emergency department nurse, I have taken care of many stroke patients who did not come to the ER immediately. They thought they’d get better or they just weren’t sure…and that always breaks my heart! The treatments for stroke are time-based and many victims have been left with devastating disabilities because they didn’t go to the ER immediately. As a stroke survivor, I know the miraculous treatments that are available and how life-changing they can be. I received treatment within 50 minutes of the onset of my stroke symptoms and I’m fully able-bodied today because of that treatment.

Please remember a few things from this post:

• Strokes can happen to ANYONE. Don’t feel the need to talk yourself out of what’s happening or wait around to see if you get better!
• As soon as you suspect a stroke, call 911! Don’t hesitate and don’t try to drive yourself or get a driver.
• Remember the FAST acronym: face, arms, speech, and time.

Strokes are often preventable, particularly ischemic strokes. Stop smoking, control your weight, exercise, eat nutritious foods, and control diabetes and blood pressure. As a stroke and heart attack survivor, I spend my time now coaching others to health and I’m cheering for you always. ❤️

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