Educating the public about stroke prevention is key in reducing the number of stroke-related injuries and death. It's vital for the public to understand their risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke, and to partner with their physician to reduce their risk. It's also important for everyone to know the classic warning signs of stroke and how critical it is to act immediately in obtaining emergency care. Every second counts when it comes to surviving a stroke. "Very few individuals experiencing a heart attack lay down and rest in the hopes that their symptoms will subside," points out David Brown, M.D., program director, Hoag stroke program and neuro hospitalist. "Yet, that is exactly what many individuals do when they experience a life-threatening stroke."
Such was the case for Susan Haasch - a devoted wife, mother and active member of her church's women's group. "I was at home working, when I suddenly felt the most painful headache of my life," recalls Susan. "I had never had a migraine and thought maybe that's what was happening."
Susan took something for the pain and like most people, was completely unaware that she was experiencing one of the classic symptoms of stroke. "I was very worried, so I took the phone with me as I laid down in hopes that the pain would subside." But it didn't. It got worse. Susan made a call to 9-1-1. "It took everything I had just to get up and unlock the door for the paramedics." Susan was brought to Hoag's Emergency Care Unit and by the time she arrived, she could barely move her right arm. "I was really frightened. I didn't know what was happening. I described what I was feeling to the emergency room physician and he told me that they were sending me for an immediate brain scan."
Minutes later, CT scanning revealed that Susan was in fact experiencing a hemorrhagic stroke. She had a dangerous aneurysm that was leaking blood into her brain.
Susan and her family listened intently as Michael Brant-Zawadzki, M.D., executive medical director, Pickup Family Neurosciences Institute and interventional neuroradiologist, explained an innovative procedure called endovascular coiling. "Because Susan's stroke was the result of an aneurysm, we discussed the benefits of endovascular coiling in treating her condition," explains Dr. Brant-Zawadzki. "This innovative technique enables physicians to non-surgically repair a brain aneurysm, thereby reducing the risks associated with traditional surgery." "I remember my family praying over me as we made the decision to entrust my life to the team of physicians and nurses who would be caring for me," shares Susan.
Their prayers were answered. The procedure was a success. And while Susan lay recuperating in Pickup Family's Neuro Intensive Care Unit, her family expressed their relief and gratitude to the stroke team who had skillfully saved her life.
"We cannot put into words the gratitude we feel for the talented physicians and nurses who cared for me," says Susan smiling. "They were so caring and considerate, and made a point of staying in constant communication with me and my family - reassuring us and taking the time to answer all of our questions."
Today, Susan has completely recovered and is enjoying life to its fullest - particularly the time she spends with her three-year-old grandson.
"I feel blessed to have received the best possible care when I needed it most," says Susan. "I hope by sharing my experience with others, that more people will know what the symptoms of stroke are and realize how important it is to get immediate emergency care."
We hope so too, Susan.