Meadville Tribune

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May 21, 2014

Be sure to act ‘F.A.S.T’ when it comes to strokes

Living in America, we are inundated with medical journalism. Most periodicals are published with information about arthritis, cholesterol and blood pressure. You will not hear a news broadcast without catching a reference to obesity, a new pill or cancer.

So, before May of 2013, I knew that a stroke was referred to as a “brain attack.” I knew it dealt with blood clots and oxygen and a few other vague details. But, before then, I never knew how much it affected the heart. And I’m not referring to the heart of the stroke victim.

My mom, Laurie, called me in the middle of the night, May 25, 2013. She told me that she believed my dad, Rick, was having a stroke. Living about 20 miles away from the hospital, my mind ran wild as to what I would find when I arrived. I had no idea what shape my dad would be in. Fear seized me and my heart broke. I was not ready to lose my dad. Another thought crossed my mind — if my dad did survive, would he still seem like the man I had always known?

When we arrived at the hospital, I was relieved to find that he was alert and I could tell him how much I loved him. I cannot tell you what the doctors and nurses said that night, or in the following days. The memories are blurred by intense emotion and exhaustion. All I can explain to you is the gratitude that even after his stroke, my dad’s personality was still intact.

I love the way my dad jokes around. I love how during stressful or sad situations he can make a remark that eases tension. During his 30-day stay at the hospital, I believe he made the nurses and other caregivers enjoy their jobs a little bit more. My dad is a likable guy and his stroke did not steal that from us.

Yes, he may have lost some usage of his right side. But, the stroke did not take away the love he pours on my children. My kids still have their loving, playful Papa. And, true, there are moments, like when my dad is really tired, when his speech can be difficult to understand. But, I still get nearly daily phone calls from him. I have the ability to share family dinners with him, celebrate birthdays and Christmas, to worship with him on Sunday mornings. Not to mention, my dad is still very skilled at picking on just about everyone he knows!

Just like any difficult circumstance, there are bright moments that have emerged from my dad’s stroke. Throughout Dad’s recovery, we met countless nurses and therapists who encouraged us and helped my dad improve. His health care team played a crucial role in his physical recovery, and they were very instrumental in helping my mom and I with our emotional recovery. Dad has joined a stroke support group that helps him connect with other stroke survivors and reach out to others as he continues to improve.

Our family was close to begin with, but I feel this experience has deepened our love for one another. I often tease my parents and call them “Frank and Marie” from Everybody Loves Raymond. But, even their bickering at one another is a reminder of the blessing that my dad is still here, and that he is still “Dad.”

So, yes, Dad’s stroke has had a profound effect on his health. There are daily reminders of what he has been through. His brain may have been impacted, and life may be more of a struggle now, but what my dad’s stroke really showed us his how strong the heart of our family is. And no stroke could ever take that away.

The irony that May is Stroke Awareness Month does not escape me. It was in May that we became very aware of strokes and their profound effects on bodies and families. The statistics are very clear that strokes are quite prevalent. Our family is not alone, especially when you consider that someone has a stroke every 45 seconds in the U.S.

Our family will celebrate Dad’s 1-year recovery anniversary by participating in the Stroke of Fitness Stroke Awareness Walk on Tuesday from 3 to 5:30 p.m. The walk begins at the Ernst Trail entrance near Home Depot. (The rain date is May 29.) This walk is simply to make people aware of the signs of stroke. Whether or not you can come to the walk, it’s important to know the symptoms of a stroke. We’ve learned that acting F.A.S.T. is very important.

Face: Does the face look uneven? Ask the person to smile.

Arm: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift down?

Speech: Does their speech sound strange? Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase.

Time: If you observe any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Perhaps you or someone in your family has been affected by a stroke. If that is the case, please feel free to check out the Different Strokes Stroke Support Group. This group has provided Dad with encouragement and information to recover to his fullest. The group meets the first Tuesday of the month at the Grove Street hospital from 2 to 4 p.m. If you have any questions you can contact Kate (333-5691) or Kris (333-5458).

Sarah Rose Loper Humes is a Cambridge Springs resident and the daughter of stroke survivor Rick Loper.

Stroke awareness walk

A Stroke of Fitness Stroke Awareness Walk is Tuesday from 3 to 5:30 p.m. The walk begins at the Ernst Trail entrance near Home Depot in Vernon Township. The rain date is May 29. This walk is not a fundraiser. It is simply to make people aware of the signs of stroke.

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