THOMAS KWIATKOWSKI, MD: There are many warning signs of a stroke. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that they happen quickly. A stroke does not occur over a long period of time; it's a sudden event.
ANNOUNCER: Having a stroke is something that can happen to anyone and does happen to approximately three-quarters of a million people a year. Recognizing you're having a stroke is crucial and the signs are varied.
THOMAS KWIATKOWSKI, MD: Some of the more common warning signs of stroke would include sudden weakness on one side of your body or sudden numbness on one side of your body.
Another warning sign might be difficulty with speech, either your speech is slurred or you're unable to speak normally as you have in the past. Someone who becomes suddenly confused could be having a stroke. Some patients actually may lose vision in one or both eyes or partial loss of vision in both eyes as a warning sign of stroke.
ROSE GONZAGA-CAMFIELD, RN: You see somebody who is staggering with unsteady gait. There's a loss of balance. Those people who have a severe headache, the worst headache of their life, those are people that you really have to watch.
THOMAS KWIATKOWSKI, MD: The important thing to realize is that these symptoms happen quickly and require very, very prompt action on your part to get to a hospital to see if we can do something to prevent you from having a stroke.
ANNOUNCER: What's tricky with stroke is that sometimes the symptoms may be momentary, but they are a warning that must be acted on promptly.
THOMAS KWIATKOWSKI, MD: Sometimes patients have these symptoms and they last only a few minutes, and that's what we call a TIA or a transient ischemic attack. And that goes away and someone might feel that they are fine after that, but it's very important to keep in mind that that is a warning sign of a stroke. So that if you ever had any of the symptoms of the stroke, even if it goes away quickly, it's very, very important to see a doctor or go to a hospital quickly. Because that is a warning sign that you could have a more severe stroke in the near future.
ANNOUNCER: Ignoring the signs of a stroke and not getting to a hospital immediately could make a serious problem even worse. A problem that might have been taken care of with prompt attention.
ROSE GONZAGA-CAMFIELD, RN: Let's say this happens like 10:00 in the evening, they say, "Let me go to bed. Maybe when I wake up in the morning, I'll be fine." They don't wake up; they don't get up, because when they get up, they don't realize that one side is weak. They get up and they fall on the floor.
THOMAS KWIATKOWSKI, MD: Sometimes when I'm at work, I find out that, at home, the patient had very mild symptoms. By the time they called an ambulance and arrived at the hospital, the symptoms had gotten much worse.
ANNOUNCER: The best advice? Better be safe than sorry. Even when in doubt that you're having a stroke, call an ambulance, get to the hospital and check it out.
ROSE GONZAGA-CAMFIELD, RN: Whenever anyone has symptoms of stroke that they recognize, even if they are not sure that this is stroke symptoms, please call 9-1-1. Do not call your doctor; do not call your pastor; do not call your son who is a big doctor in Massachusetts; do not call your neighbor; call 9-1-1.
THOMAS KWIATKOWSKI, MD: Anything you do that delays you getting to the hospital will make it less likely that we'll be able to give you a treatment for your stroke. And even though we only have one acute treatment for stroke, we can only give it to patients who get to the hospital very early, usually within a couple of hours of the onset of their symptoms.
ANNOUNCER: The good news is that there is a treatment for certain types of stroke, but it must be given within three hours of the symptoms appearing.
THOMAS KWIATKOWSKI, MD: There is one treatment that has been approved for stroke, and it is called tPA, and it's actually what we call a clot-buster. It's the same type of drug that we use for patients who have a heart attack. And what it does is it actually dissolves the clot that is causing the blockage in the artery in your brain. It is only good for the type of stroke that is ischemic, where there is no bleeding in your brain. If your stroke is caused by a hemorrhage or bleeding in your brain, then a drug like tPA would not be able to be used.
ROSE GONZAGA-CAMFIELD, RN: The recovery rate of patients who are receiving tPA is very high. This is why we encourage people to please don't delay; call 9-1-1. You come in over three hours, your whole body is debilitated, because now we cannot help you. You are paralyzed and you cannot walk and you end up in a nursing home.
ANNOUNCER: Calling 9-1-1 means you can avoid having to drive.
THOMAS KWIATKOWSKI, MD: You should never drive yourself if you are having a stroke. Sometimes your symptoms can get worse. A stroke can affect your vision in some patients; it can affect your balance; it certainly can affect your ability to drive. So you should always call 9-1-1 and have an ambulance bring you to the hospital.
ANNOUNCER: So while there may be little you can do to prevent a stroke, there is much you can do to help yourself if you do have one.
THOMAS KWIATKOWSKI, MD: Even something as simple as waiting to see if your symptoms are going to get better or calling your doctor and waiting for them to call you back or calling a relative and hoping that they'll be able to come and take you to the hospital all delay you getting to the hospital as quickly as you need to.
I had a TIA on a thursday and only reported it to the doctor on the tuesday as I thought that I had had a seizure. To only find out that it was a TIA. I am now having a hard time with concentration, very fatigued, my left arm is heavy and tingling. I also have a had time reading anything. I have to go over it two to three times before I am able to understand what I just read and lastly I have a terrible migraine, that no medication I take can get rid off.
I have called my Neurologist two days ago and no ones called my back with an appointment. I wish I had gone to the hospital when it happened. I might not have been having such a hard time doing my every day tasks or be so fatigued.