Fast stroke week

Know the FAST signs of stroke

As I was laid in my cubicle, with the most horrendous frontal lobe headache, burning hot, throbbing ears, pins and needles in both arms, feeling nauseous and a little worried that I had suffered a minor stroke or a T.I.A. (Transient ischaemic attack), it got me thinking about the F.A.S.T acronym for recognising the signs of stroke, and how important it is to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.

This is not a memory of events of my stroke 6 years ago, but a weird, health event that occurred just 10 days ago! (Please don’t worry as I haven’t suffered a stroke but read on….)

I was suffering a little fatigue (well, a LOT of fatigue) since by City2Surf run in Sydney, six days previously, when I joined ‘Team Stroke’ and a group from The Little Stroke Warriors, to raise money and raise awareness for childhood stroke. Check out my smiling face as happy to have completed the 14km run and raised almost $1300!City2Surf me Shaking off my fatigue I was finding more difficult than usual, despite the rest I had taken. After presenting to a local community group in my role as Stroke Safe Ambassador, earlier that Saturday morning, I was sat outside on my patio at home having some lunch and I began to choke on a small piece of food. I started to cough, cough and cough some more but could not dislodge this food that had become trapped in my airways. I was struggling to breath and although I tried calling for my husband who was inside, I could not shout his name through lack of breath! Then suddenly, I felt a sharp, painful ‘snap’ in the back of my neck.

Instantaneously, I felt a harsh, throbbing headache at my frontal lobe and a rush of heat to my ears, which began to throb. Then I felt a sudden ache in my shoulders and pins and needles in my arms which went all the way to my fingers. Then an overwhelming feeling of nausea began and all I wanted to do was just lie down and go to sleep. Scared? You bet! I seriously thought I had suffered a stroke. My husband came outside as he had heard me coughing and saw my face. He knew there was something wrong and immediately offered to take me to the Hospital. Advice I offer at all my Stroke safe presentations is to NOT put anyone in your own vehicle, if you believe they have suffered a stroke, you MUST use the FAST guidelines, ALWAYS think of timeliness and ring 000. The earliest medical intervention is the most important part of treating a stroke.

I assessed myself for the FAST signs of stroke.

F – FACE – Is there any facial drooping? No.

A – ARMS – Can I raise both arms? Yes.

S – SPEECH – Is my speech affected/slurred/can I talk. Yes. It was slurred but that was due to my fatigue

T – Time – Ring 000 if any of the above or in doubt. YES!

It is important to note that only 80% of stroke survivors present with the F, A or S (or a combination of all three) so therefore 20% present differently. Due to the fact I had felt a sharp pain in the back of my neck (and my stroke had been a basilar artery dissection), AND I had a 9/10 frontal lobe headache, I advised David to ring 000.There is only a 4.5 hour window for stroke survivors to receive thrombolysis treatment (the clot busting drug) which could save your life so you MUST always ring 000, even if you are in doubt. Paramedics are trained to check for the signs of stroke and can deliver medical help immediately. Please check out this great video from MICA Paramedic Andrea, where she explains the reasons behind early medical intervention.                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Moving on from my hospital visit, I underwent a CT scan, as my symptoms were treated as though I had suffered a stroke and gladly that was clear. A further MRI scan revealed that there was no evidence of even a TIA. The diagnosis from my local GP was that I had suffered a ‘cough headache’ and due to the restrictions in my neck vertebrae (my own tight neck) then I must have pinched a nerve which caused the ‘snap’ feeling and extreme pain. A cough headache can present similar symptoms to a stroke but generally goes within a few hours. Due to the fact my headache lasted several days was because I was fatigued, so my symptoms were rather exacerbated.

The good news is that as I type this blog, I have had a full week of rest and feeling lots better.

Stroke Week commences on 2 September and it is always the first week in September that the Stroke Foundation promote everything about stroke. This year, we are sharing the FAST message and the signs of stroke, specifically childhood stroke and encouraging everyone to become a FAST HERO, by learning the signs of stroke.

Here are just a few scary statistics…(check out more facts on the Stroke Foundation website)

  • Stroke is one of Australia’s biggest killers and a leading cause of disability
  • Stroke kills more women than breast cancer and more men that prostate cancer
  • In 2017, there were almost 56,000 new and recurrent strokes – one every 9 minutes
  • 30% of stroke survivors are of working age (under 65) so this is NOT just an older persons illness

So, let’s talk about what is happening in Stroke Week. You will find events happening all over Australia, by checking the Stroke Foundation  website but here on the Sunshine Coast of Australia, you will find me on Monday 2 September,  on Bulcock Beach Esplanade with some of the Living Life After Stroke – Caloundra Young Stroke Survivors Support Group; and a few friends. We shall be wearing our FAST HERO capes (yes, you have heard it here) and some FAST Hero masks. The capes have been made by my friend Kristine who is a constant supporter of the Stroke Foundation and everything I do. Stroke has touched her own friends’ network and she has seen the damage it causes to survivors and their families, and I am eternally grateful for her support once again this year.

We shall be conducting blood pressure checks, finding out your own risk of stroke, distributing FAST literature, giving away FREE yoga vouchers, healthy snacks and drinks vouchers to be redeemed at THE FARM, Meridan Plains, 4551, where I practise yoga, mindfulness and simply relax in this calm space, to rest, reenergise and restore. Rashida, yoga and mindfulness teacher and approved pharmacist will be conducting the BP checks. I shall also be giving away three FREE ebooks of A Stroke of Poetry, my Stroke Foundation recognised resource of my poems of healing and hope after stroke. You have to be at the event to have a chance of winning any of these great prizes. (non winners will still receive a healthy protein ball made by Rashi as a consolation prize.)A Stroke of Poetry by Shelagh Brennand

The event is on Facebook so please click this link to RSVP.

There is still time to register for your own stroke week activity and order your stroke week pack today, with literature, hero face masks and much more. You can have one at home, in your workplace or anywhere during Stroke Week (ends 8 September). You can even download some information directly from the website.

PLEASE be stroke aware and learn the FAST signs of stroke today.

Until next time, stay stroke safe.

Shelagh

 


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Still running after stroke

Have you always wanted to run? Do you have doubts about running after stroke? Please do NOT let your stroke stop you from running, or learning to run. If I did it, then anyone can do it!

My running story

Prior to my stroke in 2013, I would say that I was a reasonably fit person, although I never ran or took part in any basic fitness training. I would walk a lot and think that kept me fit. Around 10 months’ post stroke, following my post stroke depression, I met my personal trainer (and now great friend Melinda), and my positivity and zest for life began to return. I threw myself into fitness (sometimes to my own detriment as I would spend days in bed following a short mountain climb!). However I loved it. I loved the feeling of climbing to the top of a mountain or kayaking across the Pumicestone Passage where we live and just being with nature. Melinda taught me to focus on what I COULD do and not what I could not. I had limbs that worked so why not use them to their best advantage!10k fun run 2016

It was only during the early part of 2015 that I took up running and trained for a 10K. I started with a simple Couch to 5K  running app and it gave me the basics for running. Subsequently joining a running group and watching others who had begun to run following their own strokes, gave me that much-needed passion for being able to complete that first 10K run. Hard work and determination to succeed paid off. That same year, I completed my first 10K run and in a time of 69 minutes so I was very pleased with that. I ran the first 8.5K and only walked up a very steep hill near our local Shelly Beach. I completed the same run again in 2016 (in the howling wind and rain) and it took me two minutes longer. Here is a photo of my husband David and I in 2016, just before we ran the 10K fun run and I have been running ever since (sometimes on and off, when my health hasn’t been too good)

Goal setting

I thrive on setting goals, not only in my running life, but generally. I know that goal setting is not for everyone but it gives me focus and motivation. Roll on four years from my very first 10K run and with over 50 community park runs under my belt, I am currently training for the City2Surf 14km run in Sydney on 11 August. (Check out my very red face of me and my run buddy Lisa on our evening 10K training run earlier this week!) Having a run buddy is essential and Lisa and I keep other accountable.

Me and Lisa 10 k run photo

I am very much looking forward to the City2Surf and hope to run the whole 14k, whilst sharing awareness of stroke, supporting the Stroke Foundation and specifically the Little Stroke Warriors Group. The LSW was set up by two amazing mums, after their children were diagnosed with stroke. We are fundraising for this amazing cause and together, we have already raised over $2500. Thank you to those that have generously donated to my run and here is the link should you wish to donate a $1 or two! Every little helps share awareness and resources for parents who need to cope with their little ones going through a difficult stroke recovery.

As a stroke survivor, I do not believe the words ‘I CAN’T’ exist, so if you are physically able, don’t make any more excuses and start now!

Here are five tips worth knowing that have helped me run:

  • Manage your running with your fatigue and you will do OK (i.e. take rest before if needed and balance physical and mental fatigue pre and post runs)
  • Drink plenty of water before your run so you don’t become dehydrated
  • Try and find a running buddy to keep you motivated.
  • Find your local Parkrun. It’s free and it doesn’t matter how slow you go at first. Just keeping trying and there are plenty of people there to cheer you on.
  • NEVER give up trying. Always believe in yourself and you CAN do it if you really want to.

Here is a poem, entitled ‘I Did it!’ which is in my book A Stroke of Poetry and I wrote this, following my first 10K run. I share it often and know it inspires people to get out and run. It would be great if you could comment on this post and share your running tips and your achievements, however small they may be and let’s keep each other motivated.

                                                                                                                                                                 I Did It!

When we first came to Australia, seven years ago, this year.
Our Lady of Rosary was Patrick’s school. Many memories we still hold dear.
Each year they organise a fundraiser, held here on the Coast.

The Caloundra Foreshore Fun Run it is, and well attended by most.

There’s a 10K, 5K and so much more. It’s a beautiful family day.
You can even take a 3K walk and participate that way.
So, the first year I attended I did the 3K walk.

Run? No chance. You’re having a laugh. I’d much rather walk and talk.

As the years progressed, I saw those runners coming through.
I thought “Maybe, am I serious?  Is that something I could do?”
I’d watched my good friends running and some had suffered a stroke like me.
They’d trained and got so fit again. That’s where I aspired to be.

Even after my stroke recovery and getting fitter by the day.
Without the correct training a 10K run? There was no way.
So my friend suggested a personal trainer based here on the Coast.

If I joined their runners’ eight-week plan maybe a 10K I could then boast.

So, with my personal trainer, and boot camps through the week.

I added on the running course. I tell you it was no mean feat.  
Many mornings up at 5am. Is that really a time to rise?
Some training sessions were really tough. The trainers I grew to despise!

I hurt my knee on a training run. That really set me back.
Physiotherapy sorted that out, and the day came around real fast.
I was feeling very nervous but my mind set got me through.
If I was going to achieve this goal of mine. I knew what I had to do.

As I ran downhill to Moffat Beach, the finish line in my view.
I saw my son waiting to run with me. Tears welled and then I knew.
I’ve really gone and done it! I’ve actually run 10K.
A goal I thought I would never reach I well achieved that day.

Happy running and until next time, please stay stroke safe.

Shelagh


Post stroke fatigue – it’s still what it is!

POST STROKE FATIGUE

It just hits me like a freight train! Little warning and BAM! I bet many of my stroke followers feel the same.

I wrote a blog a few months ago about Post Stroke Fatigue but have rehashed it due to the fatigue I have felt this week. Nothing much has changed this year with my fatigue, but I am still glad to say that as time goes on, although the stroke fatigue comes ‘a calling’….I do seem to recover better than I did at first. Always keep positive and hope that this little video puts your stroke fatigue into perspective and helps others understand that there is little you can do about it other than deal with it when its there.

Please let me know how you cope (or not) as may be the case.

Take care.

Shelagh