This story is from Aimee, who tells us the story of her dad who dismissed his symptoms even when those around him started to worry. One of the ASA’s most powerful missions is education about the signs of stroke. Because new treatments mean that early identification can make the difference between devastation and recovery for some people. Thank you, Aimee, for sharing this. It is a wake-up call for all of us.
It’s just a headache. That is what my dad kept telling my mom all weekend. She knew that he had sinus headaches before, after all, he had allergies, but she also suspected that something more was happening. However, he kept telling her he was fine, it was just a headache, and he refused to go to the doctor. Two days later when I arrived at their house, he could barely walk and function on his own, though he kept insisting that nothing was wrong and he just had a headache. That headache was a stroke, the first of four to come.
We weren’t shocked to hear the news, as it seemed like the only explanation for his symptoms. We were shocked when we heard other things, kidney failure, heart failure, and the possibility of major surgery. Gratefully, those things corrected themselves as they finally got treatment for his high blood pressure, but that was quiet a week, including a stay in the intensive care unit of the hospital.
Adjusting to life with new diet restrictions and new medications wasn’t going to be easy. Everything that tasted good was on the forbidden list now for my dad, and my mom had to learn to make things taste good without much salt. With each stroke more problems came about, more medication and more special care.
Somehow, even with all the waiting, my dad recovered well, and he came away with very little damage. Each stroke to follow has affected his ability to do certain things, he has very little strength, and he has balance problems, but we count our blessings because we know that it could have been much worse. We know many people lose their entire left side after a stroke, so the fact that he isn’t paralyzed in any way is amazing.
Of course, as anyone can tell you, caring for a loved one after a stroke can be challenging. There are all kinds of feelings that they are dealing with, depression being the biggest. There might even be personality changes (my dad is certainly not the same as before), and there are certainly going to be physical challenges as well. He can no longer drive, and it’s hard for him to do a lot of the things he used to enjoy.
Because he had both types of stroke, he has to watch his blood pressure but he also has to take medication to prevent clots. They might not have been able to catch the clotting issue early, but everyone should make sure to check their blood pressure. It’s so easy, and can prevent a world of problems.
After watching him go through all of it, my family all feels an urgency to be healthy. Strokes can steal so much from you, it’s worth doing whatever you can to be in the best shape possible. I know that my dad was able to pull through as well as he did after the first stroke because he had been working out and was fairly healthy. It may or may not prevent a stroke, but being healthy can help you over come one.
Know the signs, remember that it really does make a difference to get treatment as early as possible. If you suspect a stroke, never believe that it’s “just a headache”.