When she was just 17, Kim Head was at a high school dance with her boyfriend when the right side of her body suddenly shut down. She lost her ability to speak, and she developed a piercing pain behind her left eye.
Though she was only a senior in high school, Head was experiencing a stroke.
She was rushed to the hospital in Hamilton and then moved to Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. Doctors found that her stroke was the result of arteriovenous malformation (AVM), a typically congenital abnormal connection between veins and artieries. After brain surgery and extensive therapy, Head was able to make a full recovery and graduate on time.
In order to help stroke patients like Head, Upstate Medical University’s Upstate Stroke Center is holding its third annual Strikes Against Strokes bowling fundraiser on Sunday, May 6 at Flamingo Bowl in Liverpool. The idea came from Head’s sister, Carrie Head Garcia, who now lives in Clay.
What: Strikes Against Strokes fundraiser for Upstate Stroke Fund
When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6
Where: Flamingo Bowl, 7239 Oswego Road, Liverpool
Cost: $15 for stroke survivors, $20 for kids, $30 for non-stroke survivors
Third annual bowling event to benefit the Upstate University Hospital Stroke Fund to support patient and family education, direct patient care needs and raising community awareness. Bumper bowling and ramps will be available and walk-ins are welcome. The event is handicapped accessible. Registration must be completed by April 25. Download registration form at upstate.edu/specialevents/strikes_stroke.php.
“Strikes Against Stroke began three years ago in May of 2010,” Garcia said. “With the support of Sharon Zalatan Klaiber, [director of nursing in the neuroscience department at Upstate,] we chose May because May is Stroke Awareness Month. It all got started as a result of my desire to have a fundraising event that was strictly focused on stroke and for stroke survivors.”
Garcia said she wanted to have a different kind of event than a traditional walk or run, as there are already a number of those in the community.
“We chose bowling because stroke survivors as well as their families can participate,” she said. “Flamingo bowl offers ramps as well as bumper bowling that can accommodate those with special needs and can be utilized by everyone.”
What is a stroke?
A stroke has been called a “brain attack.” This happens when blood vessels in the brain are suddenly blocked or burst. Brain cells are denied blood and oxygen and begin to die, causing a wide variety of disabling symptoms and often permanent disability or death. There are two forms of stroke: ischemic, which occurs when there is a blockage of a blood vessel supplying the brain, and hemorrhagic, which occurs when there is bleeding into or around the brain. There is also TIA or transient ischemic attack, which is commonly called a “mini-stroke.”
What are the warning signs of a stroke? Use the acronym “FAST” to remember these four major symptoms. If you notice them in yourself or someone around you, get medical help immediately.
F: Face: Ask the person to smile. Does the face look uneven? Does one side droop downward?
A: Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S: Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase, such as “The sky is blue.” Does their speech sound strange?
T: Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately
Source: MA Dept. of Health
Preventing a stroke
While there are some risk factors for stroke that are out of our control – things like age, hereditary risk, race and gender – there are a number of things we can do to reduce our chance of having a stroke.
Eat a healthy diet.
Reduce your alcohol intake.
Visit your doctor regularly to check your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
According to the Center for Disease Control, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of serious long-term disability. Each year, approximately 795,000 people suffer a stroke. About 600,000 of these are first attacks, and 185,000 are recurrent attacks. Someone has a stroke in the U.S. every 40 seconds.
The stroke epidemic has necessitated specific care here in Central New York. The Upstate Stroke Center opened at Upstate Medical University in 2006 and has since provided targeted care for stroke patients.
“We are the most comprehensive stroke center in our region and can take care of all types of stroke patients,” Klaiber said. “We are unique in that like other stroke centers in our region, we can provide the clot buster within the first three hours for appropriate patients, but also can take care of patients who cannot receive the clotbuster with clot retrieval or tPA [a drug used in breaking down blood clots] directly to clot. We also can care for the sickest stroke patients as we are the regional referral center. We have dedicated Stroke and Neurointensive care services and specialized ICU, floor and stepdown, all dedicated to neuroscience patients. We also have the inpatient rehabilitation unit with specialists who care for patients with brain injury and stroke.”
Garcia is a speech pathologist at the Upstate Stroke Center. In that position, she is responsible for assessing and treating speech, language, swallowing, and cognitive deficits in stroke patients. She is part of a rehabilitation team consisting of physical therapists, occupational therapists, recreational therapists, nurses, attending physicians, resident physicians, psychologists, case managers, dieticians and social workers. All of those professionals work together to address the needs of stroke patients.
“Some of the specific needs of stoke patients/survivors are managing medications, ADLs (activities of daily living), toileting, cathing needs, orthotics, wheelchairs, communication boards or devices, environmental control systems, vocational rehabilitation counseling, vision therapy, driver evaluation, vehicle modifications, aide services or companions, psychosocial counseling, support groups and neuropsychological testing,” Garcia said.
Recovering from stroke
Those are the kinds of things the money raised at Strikes Against Strokes will help fund. It will also help in the day-to-day therapy that helps them regain speech and motor function after a stroke. Garcia said those therapies are very patient-specific and depend on both the severity of the stroke and the location of the damage.
“As speech-language pathologists, we assess patients to determine if they are aphasic [meaning they have language impairment], apraxic [motor speech disorder], dysarthric [speech impairment] or have dysphagia [swallowing disorder],” Garcia said. “We also assess cognition [attention, memory, problem solving, insight, and executive functioning]. Based on our assessment, we know what kind of treatment to provide and how to alter each treatment to meet the needs of each individual patient. Our physical therapists address motor skills such as sitting, standing, walking with or without a device, transferring in and out of bed or a wheelchair, climbing stairs, strength and endurance, balance and wheelchair mobility. While our occupational therapists address motor skills more specific to ADLs such as dressing, bathing, grooming, toileting, feeding, as well as home management, home safety, community living skills, money and financial management, and upper extremity functioning and mobility and use of adaptive equipment.”
Even after a patient’s initial therapies and in-hospital stay is complete, the healing process continues.
“We educate our patients during daily therapies,” Garcia said. “The statement, ‘Your brain will continue to heal for six months to a year’ is communicated frequently throughout the patient’s stay.”
Families also play a critical role in the patient’s recovery.
“Families can take advantage of educational and training opportunities,” Garcia said. “They’re encouraged to attend our daily Brain Injury Education sessions that focus on the brain and it’s functions, vocational rehabilitation and discharge planning, community re-entry, communication and thinking skills and our family adjustment and support group.”
Garcia also noted that it’s important for families and caregivers to take care of themselves. Otherwise, they’re no good to themselves or the stroke survivor.
“Family and friends can offer assistance of any kind especially when the patient/survivor returns home,
she said. “It can be as simple as giving the direct caregiver time to take a shower or go to the store. We are all very supportive when a friend or family member is in the hospital. But what we tend to forget is that much of the work comes after the hospital stay. Many people won’t ask when they really do need the help and that is when they need it the most.”
For more information about this event, call Upstate Connect at 464-8668.
If you’re unable to attend but would like to donate to the Stroke Fund, send a check made payable to HSC Stroke Fund #44450 to the following address:
Upstate University Hospital
Upstate Connect – c/o Dustin Adams
750 E Adams Street – 250 HS – Sixth floor
Syracuse, NY 13210
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.