Updates from Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital and Hospital Foundation
One of the most important alerts you will hear overhead at Dignity Health Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital is the stroke alert. While it can be unnerving, when you hear it you know a team of physicians and clinicians are readying themselves for the ambulance’s arrival.
Stroke affects arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the fifth leading cause of death and a primary source of disability in the U.S. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel carrying oxygen to the brain is blocked by a clot or rupture. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen needed, so brain cells die.
Ischemic strokes are clots whereas hemorrhagic strokes are bleeds. An ischemic stroke is caused by a clot obstructing the flow of blood to the brain and accounts for about 87% of strokes. A hemorrhagic stroke is the result of weakened blood vessel rupturing and preventing blood flow to the brain. Aneurysms (enlargement of an artery caused by a weakening of the artery wall) and arteriovenous malformations (abnormal tangle of blood vessels connecting arteries and veins, disrupting normal blood flow and oxygen circulation) are the primary causes of hemorrhagic strokes
A transient ischemic attack (TIA), or “mini stroke,” is caused by a temporary clot and should be taken seriously. TIA’s generally last a few minutes up to 24 hours. While the blood clots often dissolve or dislodge on their own, TIAs occur before about 12% of all strokes. The risk of having a full stroke is at its highest for 90 days after a TIA.
So what should you do if you think your loved one is having a stroke? First, call 911 immediately and use the word stroke so they are prepared when they arrive. Next, write down the time you noticed symptoms and what they were. The clot busting drug can only be used for an average of 5% of stroke cases, plus it has a very short time frame for when it must be given, so accuracy of time is very important. Encourage the person to lie down and talk to them while they can still communicate what they are feeling. If necessary perform CPR. If you don’t know CPR, the 911 operator can talk you through it. Finally, stay calm as they need you able to be clearheaded and communicate on their behalf.
On the flip side, do not let the person fall asleep or talk you out of calling 911. Do not give them medicine, food, or drink. Do not let them drive to the hospital or have you drive them.
Strokes are life-threatening situations, so don’t delay getting help. The worst thing you can do is wait and see if symptoms change or improve. The longer you wait, the more likely your loved one may be left with a permanent disability. However, if you get them to the hospital quickly and they can receive appropriate treatment, they will have a much better chance of a smooth recovery.
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