Every month, people bring awareness to health conditions to inform and educate those who may not know much about them.
Each month seems to highlight a particular condition, and they are all important. May happens to be Stroke Awareness Month, which helps people each year to understand the causes, symptoms, and treatments for strokes.
According to Khan Academy Medicine, a stroke happens when some or all of the blood supply to the brain is cut off. “If you lose some or all of that blood supply to your brain, then you lose some or all brain function. So, the loss of some blood supply, causing the loss of brain function, that’s a stroke,” says Khan Academy.
The loss of blood supply to the brain can be caused by two different problems: a rupture or a blockage. A rupture of a vessel in the brain is known as a Hemorrhagic Stroke. According to Medical West Hospital, “Bleeding from the vessel, also known as a hemorrhage, happens suddenly, and the force of blood that escapes from the blood vessel can also damage surrounding brain tissue. Hemorrhagic stroke is the most serious kind of stroke. About 13 percent of all strokes are hemorrhagic.”
When there is a blockage of the blood flow, this is known as an Ischemic Stroke. Medical West Hospital states, “A blood clot that forms in a blood vessel in the brain is called a ‘thrombus.’ A blood clot that forms in another part of the body, such as the neck or lining of the heart and travels to the brain is called an ‘embolus.’ About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic. Treatment for ischemic strokes depends on how quickly the victim arrives at the hospital after symptoms start.”
Strokes can be major and they can also be mild. Either way, medical help is needed right away, as they can have extremely detrimental results. Within four minutes of restricted blood flow, the cells will start to die. The longer a person has restricted or busted vessels, the more damage it will cause. Symptoms of a stroke include: difficulty seeing, confusion, difficulty speaking, problems with walking, dizziness, severe headaches, difficulty swallowing, numbness to half of the body, drooping face, and problems understanding.
A common misconception is that adults are the only ones that can have strokes.
Back in 2019, Nikita Burris, who was 12 at the time, had a major stroke. “On July 1st, I woke up with a really bad headache, and I just thought I hadn’t drank enough water,” Burris said. “So I just carried on as a normal day, and we were going to the campgrounds. When we got to the campgrounds, I asked if we could go swimming. While we were over in the water, I started feeling sick with a major headache. I was starting to drown, but I was coming back up, and when my brother noticed, he came to help.”
“I was super scared,” Burris said. She hadn’t known what had happened until her birthday on August 4. “That’s when I finally realized I had had a stroke.”
The stroke perpetuated major changes in her school life, and her personal life. “Before the stroke, I was getting straight A’s and in Honors classes,” she said. “I was playing lacrosse and dancing. I was doing pretty well. Then, after the stroke, I was put into special education classes; I couldn’t dance or play lacrosse until recently. I still take therapy and physical therapy in order to strengthen my muscles, so I can get this guy off [referring to her leg brace].”
For many stroke victims, adversity breeds change and growth. Burris pushes through each day to continue getting stronger. “Right now, I’m still working to get better, but I have had some major accomplishments like going to Mackinac Island and completing 207 steps, [which is a hike to a viewpoint.]” Burris said. “One other major accomplishment I had was proving my doctors wrong about never being able to use the right side of my body again. In June, I’m doing a solo for dance, and I’m super excited about that.” Burris added. Burris is now 14. She still continues to make progress and pushes forward despite facing some difficult struggles.
Although people can suffer from strokes, there are steps we can take to lower the risks and make it less likely. Eating healthy, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and drinking are just a few of the ways to lower the risk.