Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Surviving Stroke: Former UWL Professor Shares Personal Journey during Stroke Awareness Month

As Stroke Awareness Month unfolds, an 82-year-old former UWL professor, Jim Parker, recounts his recent encounter with a stroke, shedding light on the critical importance of swift action during such medical emergencies.

May, recognized as Stroke Awareness Month, aims to highlight the prevalence and severity of strokes. Statistics from the CDC reveal that in the United States, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds, affecting over 795,000 individuals annually. Even more distressing, someone succumbs to a stroke every three minutes.

Jim Parker, an octogenarian with a history of health issues, including heart conditions and pulmonary problems, found himself facing an unexpected challenge last month.

“I woke up at one in the morning three weeks ago and couldn’t move my left hand,” Parker recounted.

Upon seeking medical assistance, Parker discovered he had suffered a stroke after undergoing two cat scans. Faced with the decision of whether to undergo a clot buster treatment, he opted to adjust his medications instead.

Bethany Girtler, a Gundersen nurse managing the stroke program, emphasizes the importance of recognizing stroke symptoms promptly. These can range from changes in balance and vision to weakness in the body and alterations in speech.

“We’ll see slurring of words or that you won’t be able to communicate appropriately,” Girtler explained. “All of these symptoms come suddenly, so you’ll have them one minute, don’t have them one minute, and they’ll come the next.”

While strokes can occur at any age, they are more common in individuals aged 70 and above. Girtler stresses that seeking immediate medical help is crucial as delayed identification can lead to significant permanent damage.

“There are treatments for different types of strokes, whether it’s a stroke that you have bleeding in your brain or blockage in your blood flow, both types of treatments are extremely time-dependent. If they’re identified too late, then it can cause significant permanent damage,” Girtler warned.

Reflecting on his own experience, Parker feels fortunate to have survived and urges others not to hesitate to seek emergency medical care when experiencing stroke symptoms.

“People should realize you shouldn’t be embarrassed to go to the ER when you have these symptoms,” Parker emphasized. “You need to take action because it won’t just affect you. Every member of your family’s going to be affected if you end up with a serious stroke.”

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