Beware of stroke warning signs

Published 12:00 am Sunday, December 19, 2010

One morning recently, I awoke to a left arm that suddenly was very weak and a hand that turned into a claw when I tried to use it. The night before, I was fine.

At the American Heart/Stroke Association website, I read the warning signs of a stroke:

Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially one side of the body.

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Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.

Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.

Sudden, severe headache with no known cause.

Sudden weakness in one arm was my only symptom, and it wasn’t at all dramatic; still, something was clearly wrong. My Dad had a major stroke when he was exactly my age.

My husband took me to the emergency room at Natchez Regional Medical Center.

Each staff member or medical professional — there were many — was prompt, patient, empathetic and knowledgeable.

Dr. Elizabeth James examined me, ordered tests and consulted with my physician, who ordered more tests and arranged for my transfer to the telemetry unit for overnight observation.

A telemetry unit nurse thoroughly examined me and explained why and what to expect while connected to the heart monitor during the night. She and others on the team were attentive, compassionate and dedicated to my well-being.

Instead of a stroke, I had a TIA or “mini-stroke.” TIAs have the same symptoms as strokes but differ in that TIAs don’t produce permanent brain damage. TIA is a “warning stroke” for you and your doctor to take action against a major stroke.

A stroke is not necessarily something that happens to other people and never to you.

Sharon Richardson Barnett

Natchez resident