This is an entire month set aside for stroke—to educate the public about their personal risk factors, increase awareness of FAST and celebrate survivorship. I see the stroke as two parts: Stroke Awareness (which most of my May posts have been) and Life After a Stroke.
Stroke Awareness — I think the best way to be aware of strokes is with F.A.S.T.:
- F is for FACE – Does the face look even?
- A is for ARM – Does one arm drift down?
- S is for SPEECH – Does the speech sound strange?
- T is for TIME- Then it’s time to call 9-1-1 (or your emergency number!)
There are many other signs of a stroke but this is an easy way to be aware of strokes. Strokes are called “brain attacks” and consequently in an effort to understand what happened and learn about strokes, I have learned heaps about the brain and how it works. I am totally fascinated by the neurology of it all. If you are on Facebook, take a look at the Faces of Stroke that National Stroke Association has as their cover picture currently. They have a great program supporting this concept. I would imagine that the face of stroke is much different than we originally thought.
Life after Stroke — I’m going to tell my ‘bangs story’ again. I think it’s a funny story (important in the life after stroke part for me). I had the same hairdresser for many years before the stroke. I had read an article about her that talked about how she was more than a hairdresser. She took into account someone’s lifestyle and their face structure and made recommendations about a hair style that would fit best. I loved that. She was the one that recommended that I not have bangs and while it was a bit of a hassle growing them out, I totally got that concept. When I had the stroke, Matt contacted her and she came to the hospital. I knew she was getting ready to retire from the hair business and she told Matt to go ahead and get another hairdresser when I got home. Through recommendations of friends, I found a new hairdresser. I tell the story that I was surprised to find I had bangs when I got home from the hospital. I had taken so much effort to grow them out. I knew I didn’t have bangs before the stroke. I loved the new hairdresser. It was in my 3rd or 4th year of seeing her that I mentioned that I did not want bangs. She said “but when you came to me, you had bangs so I kept cutting them!” I love that story! Bangs are neither right or wrong. (Just like the things we do and how we do them in life after stroke.) They just are. Today I have no bangs. I totally see that as life after stroke. What works for one person may not work for another.
I’ve said that I learned to read/reread after the stroke. Between the ataxia and other things, this has been a major accomplishment for me. Now I don’t pretend to keep up with Matt (he reads voraciously) but it’s been one of my major accomplishments. We both have e-readers. Matt has a traditional Kindle and I have a Fire. I probably would prefer to read books from the library (U.S. people know about public libraries, something to add to my gratitude list), but it takes me so long to read, sometimes I need to get the electronic version so I can take my time. One can also change the font size on most books which is a huge deal. There are also tons of free e-books available. This is where I say stroke survivors can do everything they did before the stroke but it may look a little different than it used to look.
People know I love sports. They are an important part of the whole journey for me. As I’ve said before, I see that as an important part of being a stroke survivor. I believe it helps every stroke survivor to have a passion about something. (For a brief moment, something else is important!) I’m going to use college sports as my example. I’ve said before that I think one can see the rules and strategy more in college sports. If you look at college sports, think about a coach’s thought process. People typically matriculate in 4 years, then the coach has to have another strategy. (Or maybe it’s the same strategy but with different people.) That’s a great example of life after stroke! The ever changing face of it all.