Act Fast To Save The Life Of A Stroke Victim
By Geoff Goond
If someone suffers from a stroke then what happens in the minutes afterwards could be the difference between life and death. A stroke occurs when there is a delay or interruption of the blood supply to the brain. This can be triggered by a blockage or complete rupture to the main artery supplying the brain with oxygenated blood. The effects of a stroke can be devastating as without oxygen the brain tissue will die off, which can lead to irreversible damage and in many cases death. If a person can pick up on the symptoms early then they can help prevent brain damage and ultimately save a life.
Strokes are complicated but there are some underlying reasons why people suffer from them. The main artery supplying the brain has oxygenated blood pumped through it at high speeds. If a person suffers from a narrowing of the artery walls then the supply gets cut off and a ‘brain attack will occur’. Smoking is a big cause of artery walls narrowing. However awareness to the health risks of smoking has risen, which has contributed to stroke mortality rates dropping by 1/3rd since 1968. Obesity also plays a part, and leads to fatty deposits in arteries. The deposits slow the flow of traffic much like a motorway when a lane is closed. Unfortunately the brain requires oxygen at such a ferocious consistency that any delay can prove deadly.
It is estimated that 150,000 people suffer from a stroke each year in the UK, which equates to one person every five minutes. It is therefore essential that members of the public are able to recognize the symptoms of a stroke. There is not much a first aider or member of the public can do to reverse the effects of a stroke, but they can recognise the symptoms. Failure to recognise the early warning signs of a stroke could lead to the condition worsening. The longer it goes on for without treatment the more the brain can die off.
The signs and symptoms of a stroke do not follow a specific order, and do not always appear at the same time. If there is any doubt over a symptom then there should be no hesitation in dialling the emergency services. It must be remembered that you can never get in trouble for trying to help someone no matter how silly you feel.
One indicator of a stroke is facial weakness. If their mouth or eyes appear to droop or they are unable to smile then this could be a sign that they are having a stroke. Another indicator is if a person is unable to raise both arms and support them in the air. The main effect of a stroke is a reduction of oxygen reaching the brain, which can lead to paralysis of limbs. The effects can be permanent, which is why it is so important to act quickly so the casualty has a chance of making a good recovery.
The last main symptom of a stroke is speech problems. If a person is unable to speak clearly or understand what you say then they may well be having a stroke.
As a first aider it is possible to pick up the early warning signs of a stroke, which will save lives. First aid is often about giving treatment, but in this case the treatment you can give is very limited. This should not take anything away from the importance of recognising the early warning signs and then transferring the person to the emergency services. Many lives are lost because people didn’t quite recognise what was going on.
A good friend recently took her Father straight to hospital after she detected slurred speech when speaking to him. It turned out that he was actually intoxicated and was in no way having a stroke at all. However her fast thinking may have saved his life under different circumstances. The morale of that story is to never be afraid to act on your instinct even if you get it completely wrong.
Geoff Goond is an experienced mountain rescue worker, and first aid trainer. Could you spot the signs of a stroke? If not then visit the emergency first aid course blog @ http://www.train-aid.co.uk for free life saving tips.