Know The Signs of Stroke

A limp and a paralyzed arm serve as constant reminders to Valdina Wiley about the seriousness of a stroke. "I figured I'm not old enough to have a stroke, okay, so it never phased me at all. So, when I had the symptoms, I totally ignored them all," she tells Ivanhoe.

Numbness in her fingers, tongue and face, and even feelings of confusion were passed off as being tired.

Wiley says, "I went and laid down, and that was my cure all for everything -- if I could just lay down."

Sleep didn't help -- and waiting made it worse.

Neurologist Lewis Morgenstern, M.D., of the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, tells Ivanhoe, "The message clearly has to be that there is a therapy out there if people will call 911 immediately."

The key, according to Dr. Morgenstern, is people -- especially women -- knowing the symptoms of a stroke. He says, "My feeling is that it's certainly possible that men and women are experiencing the same symptoms, but men and women are focusing on different parts of those symptoms."

Classic symptoms most often reported by men include sudden weakness or numbness, difficulty speaking, and clumsiness. A new study shows women who had a stroke were more likely to report altered consciousness and pain.

Dr. Morgenstern says for people who identify symptoms and get to the hospital immediately, the drug TPA can help. "Between 1 percent and 2 percent of people in this country who have a stroke get it. The reason that they don't get it is they don't get to the hospital fast enough," he says.

Forced to retire, Wiley now spends much of her time reading, being thankful for what she can do. She says, "It's a blessing for me each time I'm able to get up, because I remember the time I couldn't get up."

Dr. Morgenstern says it's important that everyone be aware of the symptoms of stroke. Only 4 percent of the time is the patient the one who initiates the call for help. It's usually a loved one, a co-worker, or a friend. Also, the drug, TPA has to be given within three hours.