5 tips for surviving stroke with mobility and independence

At 47 years old, a stroke was the last thing Brian Donlan of Babylon, New York, expected when he arrived at his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu workout. Feeling healthy and in shape, he was passionate about fitness and martial arts and frequently practiced at the dojo or competed in tournaments. But when the workout ended and he couldn’t stand or speak, he knew something was wrong.

Donlan was rushed to the hospital. He arrived unable to form sentences and with no feeling down his right arm and leg. Scans indicated that Donlan was having a stroke, and doctors gave him the widely used stroke medication TPA (tissue plasminogen activator) in an attempt to help dissolve the blood clot. When it became clear that the TPA was not working and his condition continued to worsen, Donlan underwent inside-the-artery treatment (also known as interventional or intra-arterial treatment) to remove the blood clot from a major blood vessel in his brain.

“Within 12 hours, I was able to speak in sentences,” Donlan says. “And I was walking a few hours after that.”

The successful procedure was done on a Friday, and by Sunday Donlan had completely regained his movement, speech and feeling in his limbs. He was thankful to be sent home to continue his recovery in time to celebrate Father’s Day with his two sons.

The majority of strokes are caused by a blood clot in an artery inside the brain, blocking blood flow and depriving brain cells of oxygen and nutrients. An estimated 800,000 Americans experience a stroke each year. Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S.

How can you increase your chances of not only surviving a stroke – but also preserving your mobility and independence – like Donlan?

1. Identify advanced stroke centers in your area
Not all hospitals are advanced stroke centers, so they may not offer inside-the-artery treatment. Identify your nearest stroke center now so that you know where to go when a stroke occurs.

2. Recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke
Common symptoms of stroke include numbness in parts of the body, particularly in the face or arms, and weakness or partial paralysis along one side of the body. You might also experience slurred speech or have trouble walking.

3. Seek immediate medical attention
Immediate medical attention is critical to reduce the risk of long-term disability or death, since treatments need to be given within three to six hours.

4. Call 9-1-1
Call 9-1-1 for an ambulance so that diagnosis and treatment can be started on the way to the hospital. Don’t drive yourself or your loved one.

5. Ask for inside-the-artery treatment
A recent advancement in inside-the-artery clot removal is the Penumbra System(R), which acts like a miniature vacuum cleaner for the brain, using suction to gently remove the clot and restore blood flow.

Inside-the-artery treatments are helping more people not only survive strokes, but regain their mobility and independence. Inside-the-artery treatment, including the procedure Donlan underwent, is more effective than TPA, according to a study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine in December 2014. In the study, inside-the-artery treatment improved the rate of good outcome by 1.7 times over TPA alone, and it can be administered up to six hours after a stroke (compared with only three to four and a half hours for TPA).

“Despite being the No. 1 cause of long-term adult disability, stroke has been one of the most undertreated and devastating diseases in the world,” says Dr. Albert J. Yoo of Massachusetts General Hospital/Harvard Medical School. “Now that this study showed that treatment delivered inside the artery provides significant benefits for stroke patients of all ages, we have a golden opportunity to dramatically improve the lives of stroke victims.”

Donlan credits inside-the-artery stroke treatment for helping him reclaim his life. Today, he is back at work as a railroad electrical engineer and enjoys playing sports with his sons, volunteering for his local animal rescue, running and staying active. He hopes to return soon to Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

For more information about inside-the-artery treatment, visit www.Quest2StopStroke.com.


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