Are you Aware of the Signs of a Stroke?: Dr. Peter Rice



Meeting a Man Who Looked Like a Zombie

I’m not all that into Zombies, but a recent event with a possible stroke patient has me referring to it as a Zombie Apocalypse. And all just in time for Halloween.

Earlier this week I was talking with my daughter as I drove to work and had just finished the call. Although my wife has me trained to keep my eyes on the road, just out of the corner of my eye I saw a man stumble and fall on the grass.  By this time, I was past him, but in the rearview mirror he appeared to get up slowly and I wondered if he was OK or if he needed some help. 

I circled around and drove by again to find him clearly unsteady on his feet and working his way down the street with the help of an iron fence. It appeared that he might be doing well enough and so I turned around to head back toward work.  Meanwhile, he made to the corner of the Salvation Army parking lot and down he went.

Be Aware of the Symptoms of a Stroke!

Be Aware of the Symptoms of a Stroke!


I pulled into the parking lot and asked him if he needed help. 

He was trying to get up. When he turned towards me, it was the first clear look I’d gotten at his face.  The medical terminology would include significant trauma to his right eye and face; in common nonmedical parlance, his face was torn up. His faced looked like something out of a zombie show.

He was able to stand and held onto my car until he could sit for a moment in the front passenger seat.  I started the 9-1-1 call.  I asked if he was all right, but could not understand what he was saying.  I assured him that help was on the way, but speaking with the Aurora 911 operator took me away from interacting more with this patient. 

After less than a minute, and without much warning, he was up from the car seat and heading across the parking lot.  I could observe his unsteady gait with limited movement on his right side. I was waiting to catch him when he reached some parking spaces and had to step over the parking curb. A moment later we passed some of his neighbors who were surprised at his condition; they would often see him out walking and said he was heading toward his home.  He made it to his front door, but appeared to have some trouble getting inside.

I am sorry that I cannot provide a more complete ending to the story and whether or not he experienced a stroke. 

I turned him over to the paramedics of Falck ambulance #108 while he was still at his front door.  The Aurora fire department arrived a moment later.

He did not appear to have been drinking; his gait, limited right side mobility, disorientation and difficulty communicating could indicate a stroke. He may have experienced a stroke while out for his daily walk and responded by just trying to make it home.

I am certain he was thoroughly evaluated and am hoping that he received the care he needed.

In cases of stroke, brain damage can be limited or reversed if the patient receives “clot-busting” drugs quickly.  If a stroke is suspected, do not delay stroke treatment.

This gentleman was not really a zombie (he would have tried to eat me), but rather a man needing help. We should all realize that events may call on us at any time to intervene to help one of our neighbors. I learned some things from the encounter and I’ll be thinking about how to better respond next time.  Take care of yourself.

Resources:

http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_strokesigns.htm

http://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/hds_index.htm

http://www.strokeassociation.org/STROKEORG/WarningSigns/Stroke-Warning-Signs-and-Symptoms_UCM_308528_SubHomePage.jsp

Dr. Peter J. Rice

About Dr. Peter J. Rice

Dr. Peter J. Rice is a professor of Pharmacology emeritus at the East Tennessee State University Quillen College of Medicine and Professor of Clinical Pharmacy at the University of Colorado Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. --------------------------------------------------------------------------He received his BS in pharmacy from Northeastern University, PhD in pharmacology from the Ohio State University and PharmD from the University of Kentucky. He is a Board Certified Pharmacotherapy Specialist and practices in the ambulatory care and community pharmacy settings. Professor Rice is the author of Understanding Drug Action: An introduction to pharmacology (APhA, 2014) and is a fellow of the American Pharmacists Association. --------------------------He welcomes interesting medication questions and suggestions for future columns.
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