Stroke symptoms aren’t always easy to spot, but Drew Baske recognized his and was able to get lifesaving treatment. Learn what to look for – and how to help prevent a stroke from striking.
On March 16, 2017, Drew Baske, 55 awoke at 5 a.m. like he normally does, but this would not be a normal day. Shortly after letting the dog out and making coffee, he developed a sudden onset of some troubling symptoms.
“I noticed a low-grade headache, my vision was slightly blurry, and I had some numbness is my right hand,” Baske says.
The former firefighter who trains first responders in how to treat stroke quickly realized he might be having one. As he struggled to get dressed his wife, who works as a nurse, noticed him acting strangely.
When Baske told her his concerns and symptoms, she drove him straight to Parker Adventist Hospital. He was taken immediately to the ER, where a stoke drug TPA, which can not only be lifesaving, but can also help prevent or reduce the long-term effects of stroke.
But Baske still had a long road ahead of him. After six days in the hospital, Baske faced another two weeks of inpatient rehabilitation before he was able to go home and begin outpatient rehabilitation. Many of his symptoms, like memory loss, have resolved – and he was able to return to work within a few months. But he did experience a 50 percent loss in his field of vision in both eyes, and he’s still learning to navigate by scanning his path for obstacles.
When FAST isn’t enough
People often have been taught that the signs of stroke are facial drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulties. These signs are often referred to as FAST (face, arm, speech, time). But not all strokes manifest this way, says Kim Roth, RN, neuroscience and stroke clinical coordinator at Parker Adventist Hospital.
“FAST does a really good job of identifying strokes in the right or left hemisphere of your brain, but not in the back of your head, which are known as posterior circulation strokes.” This is the type Baske had, and it actually accounts for up to 25 percent of all strokes,” Roth says.
The symptoms can be vague, from sudden vision changes to minor balance and coordination issues. To help increase recognition, when Roth teaches stroke education in the community, she’s begun using the modified acronym BE-FAST, to include “balance” and “eyes” (see “BE-FAST” below).
And vigilance is still key, which means not ignoring anything that feels off – especially multiple symptoms like Baske experienced. While TPA can be highly effective, it can only be given within a limited window of time from the onset of symptoms. To ensure more patients are able to receive various forms of treatment, Parker Adventist Hospital recently extended its window from seven to 12 hours of onset, Roth says.
Heading off a stroke
Beyond recognizing symptoms, understanding the biggest risk factors – including smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, and cardias arrhythmias – is also critical, says Katheryn Polovitz, MD, a neurologist at Parker Adventist Hospital.
“Stress is also a likely risk factor, and it’s on that we see frequently with posterior circulation strokes,” Polovitz says.
Baske admits stress may have been a factor for him, as he’s been working long hours leading up to his stroke. But now, he’s doing what he can to prevent another one by following his doctor’s recommendation and working to reduce his stress levels. And he also wants to give back.
“I can’t say enough good things about all the people involved in my care. They were fantastic, and it all went like clockwork,” he says. “I’m looking forward to telling my story and helping other field providers catch the subtle signs and symptoms they may not have learned in school.”
Watch for sudden changes in:
- Balance. Be aware of any balance or coordination issues, as well as dizziness.
- Eyesight. Look for vision loss, double vision, or changes such as blurriness.
- Face. Notice any facial drooping.
- Arms. Does one arm drift downward, or is it weak or numb?
- Speech. Listen for slurred or confused speech.
- Time. Call 911 immediately for any of these symptoms.
Learn the risk factors of stroke starting at age 40, prevention tops, and how to spot warning signs at a FREE community class. Call our stroke program at Parker Adventist Hospital for more information at 303-269-4990.
Not all strokes are obvious – even after they’ve occurred. A type known as “silent” strokes often goes unnoticed, but can cause permanent damage. Here’s what you need to know:
- 14 times more common than a stroke with symptoms
- 20 percent of all adults over age 80 have one or more silent strokes
- Can cause short-term problems such as headaches, cognitive problems, or dizziness as well as long-term effects on memory
End-to-end stroke care
Parker Adventist Hospital is a Primary Stroke Center with The Joint Commission Seal of Approval for exceptional stroke care. The program uses a multidisciplinary approach that delivers stroke treatment according to nationally accepted standards and recommendations, with services that include:
- 24/7 neurology and neurosurgery coverage
- Stroke education and prevention programs
- Rehabilitation, including physical, occupational, aquatic, cognitive, and speech therapy, as well as low-vision therapy for vision loss