Monday, August 20, 2012

Strokes - An Acquired Brain Injury

In order to optimize stroke recovery, it is paramount to have early diagnosis and appropriate and immediate medical care. To do this, recognizing the symptoms of a stroke are important so that immediate action can be taken. They are: numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; trouble seeing out of either one or both eyes; difficulty walking, dizziness or loss of balance, or a sudden, severe headache.

If a stroke is suspected you must immediately call 911 or an emergency response system in your area. There is a very limited window from the onset of symptoms to when therapy can successfully be used. To determine whether it is a stroke or not, have the person smile. Their face should move symmetrically. Also ask them to raise both arms so that any evidence of paralysis will be evident, and to speak a simple sentence. While waiting for the ambulance to arrive, the person should lie flat to allow the blood to flow to the brain. If there are definite stroke symptoms, do not give them aspirin in case there is any bleeding.

Once a stroke patient has become medically stable, rehabilitation can begin which will initially teach him/her how to manage their own personal hygiene, feed themselves, get in and out of bed and to be able to use the bathroom on their own.

Further rehabilitation may include a physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech and language pathologist, psychologist and recreation therapist depending on the severity of the stroke. This type of rehabilitation will help to promote independence in their daily lives. Responses to treatment, and their overall recovery will, however, depend mainly upon themselves and their own personalities. Part of early recovery is spontaneous which are natural abilities that will automatically begin to come back, especially during the first few weeks. But significant recovery can be made even years following a stroke. Rehabilitation works best when stroke survivors and their families work together.

After rehabilitation in either a formal program or as individual services, the person will eventually be able to return to community living. During this stage they may have to learn to do common tasks in a different way. It may be that they will have to use their opposite hand to write or do things they originally did with their other hand. They may require velcroe on their shoes instead of laces or if it had been a serious stroke, they may require the use of a wheelchair.

Strokes can affect the body, mind and feelings. And because a stroke is an acquired brain injury, they may have many of the same deficits that those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury have been faced with. They may be unaware of their injury, have problems with their memory, experience lack of judgment and motivation as well as other cognitive problems, and fatigue and depression.

The most important thing in having a successful outcome following a stroke is that there is an early diagnosis, with immediate therapy and treatment. Without early treatment, there is the risk of life-long consequences to the patient such as disabilities that could possibly have been prevented.

Ms. Behnish has published 'Rollercoaster Ride With Brain Injury (For Loved Ones)', a non-fiction book detailing the difficult year following a brain injury; 'His Sins', a three generation family saga about how the actions of one person can affect future generations, and 'Life's Challenges, A Short Story Collection'.

She has also written numerous articles for newspapers, magazines and online on subjects relating to brain injuries, family issues, motivational topics and travel.

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