grandmother with her grandaughter

A young girl spots her grandmother’s stroke

The earlier you can get medical care when having a stroke, the better off you will be. This is why knowing the signs of one is critical – it can save a life. That’s exactly what this little girl did for her grandmother when she realized her grandmother was having a stroke. 

Young Girls Recognizes Her Grandma Is Having A Stroke And Saves Her Life

A stroke is a very scary experience to have, both for the person experiencing it and for their loved ones. Though it was frightening to watch her grandmother have a stroke, it was a good thing nine-year-old Emily Coyle was there. Having just learned the signs of a stroke in school, she quickly realized what was happening to her grandmother and ultimately saved her life. (1)

This past January, Emily, and her little sister were at their grandparent’s house while their parents were out on a date night. Emily was playing a game of Horse Race on the kitchen table with her grandmother, Wendy. Suddenly, Wendy was unable to deal the cards properly, flipping them all over the table. Emily asked her grandmother what was wrong. Wendy tried to respond saying that she was fine, but the words came out quite slurred. Emily noted this, and then for a moment thought her grandmother was making a face at her. That’s when one of Wendy’s arms slumped to the side.

A Lesson Well Remembered

Just a week earlier, Emily had participated in Jump Rope For Heart at school, a day of skipping in support of the Canadian organization The Heart And Stroke Foundation. During this event, the students learned about strokes and their signs and symptoms. Emily remembered the acronym their gym teacher taught them: FAST. This stands for

F – Face: Is your face dropping
A-Arms: Can you raise both arms
S – Speech: Is it slurred or jumbled
T – Time: Time to call your local emergency number (In North America, 9-1-1)

Emily ran into the living room exclaiming to her grandpa that Wendy was having a stroke. She then went back into the kitchen and asked her grandmother to smile. Only half of Wendy’s face moved. Then she asked her to raise both arms and repeat the phrase “the early bird catches the worm.” Wendy was unable.

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FAST Action

Her grandpa Glen was trying to hold Wendy now in her chair. He told Emily to call 9-1-1. Soon after the paramedics arrived and whisked Wendy off to the hospital. Sure enough, she had experienced what is called a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or a mini-stroke. This can be a precursor to a larger stroke. 

Thanks to Emily, however, Wendy got to the hospital in good timing. Wendy recovered without treatment and returned home from the hospital just a couple of days later. Though the event was very scary for her, Emily is glad that she knew what to do.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of stroke it is, it’s real. You’ve got to pay attention,” she said. “A stroke can happen to anybody at any time.”

What Is A Stroke

A stroke is when the oxygen supply to a part of your brain is interrupted or reduced. This prevents these tissues from receiving oxygen and essential nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells will begin to die. The quicker action is taken, the less likely the person will suffer permanent, reduced brain damage. (2)

A stroke can be caused by a blocked artery, but also by leaking or bursting blood vessel. Smaller strokes, like the one Emily’s grandmother, had, don’t usually lead to lasting symptoms. They can, however, be a precursor to a larger one. It is important to see a doctor in order to prevent a larger stroke in the future.

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Risk Factors For A Stroke

There are a few risk factors for stroke, some lifestyle-related, others medical-related. Lifestyle risk factors include:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Physical inactivity
  • Heavy or binge drinking
  • Use of illegal drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine

Medical risk factors for a stroke include:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cigarette smoking or secondhand smoke exposure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Cardiovascular disease, including heart failure, heart defects, heart infection or abnormal heart rhythm, such as atrial fibrillation
  • Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or transient ischemic attack
  • COVID-19 infection

Age, race, biological sex, and use of hormones (birth control or hormone therapies that include estrogen) also can affect your risk level.

Stroke Prevention

Naturally, living a healthy lifestyle will help you lower your risk of stroke. Things you can do daily to prevent one include:

  • Reducing the amount of cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet
  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits
  • Controlling high blood pressure
  • Quitting cigarettes and tobacco use
  • Diabetes management
  • Keeping a healthy body weight
  • Regular exercise
  • Moderate alcohol use, if at all
  • If you have sleep apnea, getting treated
  • Avoid use of drugs, particularly cocaine and methamphetamine

If you’ve already had a stroke, your doctor will likely suggest certain medications to help prevent another one in the future.

Signs and Symptoms Of A Stroke

First off, it is important to note the time when you notice the stroke beginning. This is because some treatments are more effective when administered earlier, versus others will work better if more time has passed since the stroke occurred. As mentioned earlier, signs and symptoms of a stroke include:

  • Slurred speech or difficulty speaking
  • Paralysis or numbness of the face, arm, or leg
  • Difficulty seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden, severe headache (may be followed by vomiting, dizziness, and altered consciousness)
  • Trouble walking and with coordination

You should call your local emergency number and seek medical attention immediately. The sooner you receive treatment, the better off you will be. Use Emily’s acronym FAST to help you remember the signs and symptoms.

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  1. A young girl spots her grandmother’s stroke.” Heart and Stroke. June 5, 2020.
  2. Stroke.” Mayo Clinic.