My Thoughts on Attending a Stroke Conference
West Virginia had its first “State of Stroke Conference” this past week. One of the sponsors for the daylong event was the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. I was asked to speak at the luncheon that day. I was a bit nervous because I typically speak to groups of people to build awareness of stroke. I usually speak about the statistics of stroke, how it’s the third leading cause of death in America and the number one cause of adult disability. I usually talk about the causes and symptoms. But the reason I was nervous was because I was talking to a group of people who already knew all that.
I was talking to doctors, nurses, and emergency workers or first responders. I was nervous in that I didn’t know what to talk about. I worried I wouldn’t have much to bring to the table. But I was later surprised by the response I got.
I basically tossed out all the facts and figures and just told my story. It was hard to tell my story. And while I didn’t break down or anything, the speech did evoke emotions I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was as if I survived my stroke all over again, emotionally, I mean. I told them about my misdiagnosis in the beginning; how the doctors in the emergency room were so convinced I had Bell’s palsy and wanted to send me home.
If you think about it, stroke has very distinct symptoms. In fact, the only similarity I found between stroke and Bell’s palsy was a drawn or paralyzed face. I also had problems with my arm and my leg. It wasn’t until the doctor in charge saw me nearly fall over when I got up to go the bathroom, that the medical professionals realized it was something else. They immediately called in a neurologist, who discovered I was having a stroke.
I did some research to see if I was alone. I found that the rates of misdiagnosis in the emergency departments have been studied. In fact, one study found a rate of 20% of misdiagnosis in the ICU. Other studies have found that it is relatively common for serious conditions such as heart attack, stroke, meningitis or appendicitis to be misdiagnosed. The reasons why? Many times it was because it was happening to a non-typical person, like me, someone young and healthy looking. I was young, but far from healthy at that moment.
I read on to find a 29-year-old man suffering a stroke was initially told he had a migraine and then a brain tumor before realizing what it was. He was then further diagnosed with a hole in the heart, which was discovered to be false just before his surgery. The man had searched the Internet for answers but had only found information on older stroke sufferers. Diabetic hypoglycemia sometimes resembles a stroke too. It can occur in any person with diabetes who takes any medicine to lower his blood glucose. It is one of the most common types of hypoglyemia seen in emergency departments and hospitals. Hypoglycemia occurs when a treatment to lower the elevated blood glucose of diabetes "overshoots" and causes the glucose to fall to a below-normal level.
So, while it is important for people to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke, so they can get help right away, it is equally important for first responders to do the same. I mean what is the point in getting to the hospital, if your condition is only going to be downplayed?
I think that’s why stroke conferences are important for medical professionals, as well as potential patients. And I’m glad I, as a survivor, participated. I felt relieved when it was over and thankful to still be around to tell my story. I even had several doctors and other medical professionals come up to me afterwards. Some wanted me to participate or speak at upcoming events. But some just came up and shook my hand and told me thank you. One doctor even said my story gave him a different perspective on why he attended. He told me he realized while learning about the different techniques and drugs available to help in the treatment of a stroke was important, hearing my true story reminded him of why he’s doing this. So, while I worried my speech wouldn’t save any lives, I was wrong. I believe, or hope anyway, that I helped those who are capable of saving lives, do just that.
Information you may find helpful:
What is a stroke?
What is a heart attack?
Published On: September 29, 2006