WHAT IS A STROKE

May 14, 2019

WHAT IS A STROKE?

ThedaCare Recognizes National Stroke Awareness Month

APPLETON, Wis – In April 2017, Dennis Clow was in denial that he was having a stroke. He was 61-years-old at the time. His day started out like normal. Clow’s 13-year-old grandson was visiting for the weekend. Earlier that afternoon they had shopped for plumbing supplies to fix a faucet.

After returning home, Dennis wanted to rest a bit. About 30 minutes later, he tried to get up but his right arm and leg wouldn’t move.

“My grandson was very upset and wanted to call 911 right away, I didn’t want him to do that,” said Clow. “I’d had no sensation of pain or anything happening to me, so I thought maybe my muscles had just fallen asleep.”

A few minutes later, Clow’s wife arrived home.

“My grandson ran out to tell her I couldn’t move and at first she thought it was an April fool’s joke, but once she saw me, she knew better,” he recalled. “She immediately got me into the car and took me to the emergency department at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah.”

After they arrived, Clow suffered two more strokes.

“The doctor wasn’t sure I was going to survive the third one,” Clow said. “I am very fortunate.”

He was immediately treated and had an MRI to determine where the blockage was located in his brain.

Clow, a long-time heavy smoker, who also had high blood pressure, spent a week in the hospital and then another 12 days in the rehabilitation unit before he was allowed to go home.

In the two years since his stroke, he’s completed outpatient therapy, and now continues his daily exercises at home. He recently suffered a fourth, mild stroke.

“I’m still working on getting better. I exercise every day; it’s almost like having full-time a job,” he joked. “I have use of my right arm and leg again; I’m just not where I’d like to be. I still walk with a cane and now I can at least carry a bag of groceries.”

Strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the third leading cause of death in Wisconsin. Someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The risk of stroke is twice as high for African-Americans when compared to other races. African-Americans also have the highest rate of deaths due to strokes, according to the CDC.

A stroke occurs when a portion of a person’s brain is deprived of blood supply. That happens when a blood clot or plaque particle blocks blood flow. Brain cells begin to die within minutes because the supply of oxygen to the brain is blocked.

“Minutes count when it comes to treating a stroke victim,” said Thomas Mattio, PhD, MD, neurologist with the Neuroscience Group and medical director of the ThedaCare Stroke Center. “There should be no hesitation to call 911 if a stroke is suspected.”

When those who are experiencing a stroke can identify the symptoms sooner, it can lead to better outcomes.

“People who arrive at an emergency room within three hours of the onset of symptoms can have fewer long-term disabilities than those who arrive later,” said Dr. Mattio. “For that reason, it’s important to get to a hospital as soon as possible, and tell your doctors when the first onset of symptoms began.”

The CDC lists the following stroke warning signs:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg — especially when limited to one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

The American Stroke Association suggests that people learn the “FAST” acronym for recognizing a possible stroke. The acronym stands for: 

  • Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of their face droop?
  • Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Or are they unable to lift one arm?
  • Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is his or her speech slurred or strange?
  • Time. If you observe any of these signs, call 911 immediately.

Dr. Mattio said Clow’s good recovery can likely be attributed to the fact that he received medical attention quickly.

“We can’t stress enough the importance of getting to a hospital as soon as possible anytime a stroke is suspected,” said Dr. Mattio. “Learn the symptoms of a stroke and call 911 immediately if you or anyone around you exhibits those symptoms.”

After his strokes, Clow immediately quit smoking. He is driving again, is recently retired and now volunteers at ThedaCare and a local nursing home. He continues exercising and recovering.

“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the great care I received from Dr. Mattio and the team at ThedaCare,” Clow said. “I’m a fighter; I’m not giving up.”

About ThedaCare

For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to finding a better way to deliver serious and complex healthcare to patients throughout Northeast and Central Wisconsin. The organization serves a community of more than 600,000 residents and employs more than 6,700 healthcare professionals throughout the regions. ThedaCare has seven hospitals located in Appleton, Neenah, Berlin, Waupaca, Shawano, New London and Wild Rose as well as 31 clinics in nine counties. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care Network Member, giving our specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a non-profit healthcare organization with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs as well as a foundation dedicated to community service.

For more information, visit www.thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on Facebook and Twitter.

Media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public Relations Specialist at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.