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! 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.)
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.