Photograph of acute MCA stroke.
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There has been some encouraging news on our neighbor, he has been removed from the ventilator and appears to be able to breath on his own with the use of the traech. There was however some bad news in that another person that lives nearby and was friends with our friend Tom, suffered a stroke himself and was also airlifted to Dartmouth. Thoughts and prayers go out to both of them. Perhaps as they recuperate together, they might be roommates in the hospital.

With the sudden constant discussion of stroke and its repercussions going on around town due to our friend’s condition, I thought that it might be helpful to others to post some of the warning signs of a stroke and what to do if you suspect that someone around you is having a stroke. I remember reading this a while ago and while I had to look it up, parts of it did stick:

F.A.S.T. – an acronym to identify a potential stroke victim.

F- FACE – Ask the person to smile, if their smile is lopsided that may indicate stroke. Ask them to stick out their tongue. If they cannot do this or have difficulty doing this, again seek medical attention.

A-ARMS – Ask the person to raise both arms. Inability to move both sides of the body simultaneously may indicate stroke.

S-SPEECH – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Often stroke victims cannot speak, their speech is slurred or they are unable to remember the words to repeat. These are all indications of a potential stroke.

T -TIME – Time is of the essence when someone is experiencing a stroke. Note the time that the symptoms started to appear and immediately call for medical assistance.

Strokes can happen to anyone, even children and can be related to other medical issues. Do not discount the possibility of stroke just because the person is not elderly or in poor medical condition.

A stroke affects the brain, usually one side. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body as well as speech.  Persons who suffer left-side brain injury as a result of a stroke may have language or speech problems and tend to develop a slow, cautious behavior and may have difficulty following instructions without repetition. They can also develop memory problems and retention issues.

The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and persons who suffer right sided strokes tend to experience spatial problems (such a distance or depth perception) as well as developing impulsive behaviors. Right sided brain stroke victims also tend to develop left-sided neglect and ignore or forget things and people on the left side of their body. They also may experience short term memory loss.

One of the very encouraging and interesting things that I came across in an article from CNN Health was the use of singing therapy to help stroke victims that have suffered aphasia or loss of speech. There has been a great deal of research indicating that the right side of the brain can compensate for the loss of speech from strokes or other brain injuries since language is based in the left side of the brain. There has been studies through the years that people with brain injuries can sing but cannot speak. Melodic Intonation Therapy developed by Dr. Gottfried Schlaug an associate professor of neurology at Beth Israel and Harvard believes that stroke victims can be talk to speak again through singing the same way that children are taught through the use of song. There is something about music and singing that overcomes the brain’s inability to produce speech.

It is amazing to me that people who lose their ability to speak through some brain injury such as a stroke, may indeed be able to communicate verbally through song. What wonderful news for so many people who suffer from aphasia. My grandfather had a stroke, several strokes as a matter of fact and I remember that he was extremely frustrated by his sudden inability to communicate even the most basic of responses verbally. Compounded with paralysis he was trapped. With this type of therapy which evidently can be taught to even non-professionals and caretakers, a whole new world may open up for those who have been robbed of their ability to speak. A beautiful, melodic world.

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