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Stroke, Heart Attack Not Same

Posted Oct 3, 2006 by Penny Fletcher

Updated Oct 4, 2006 at 09:44 AM


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It’s been a long haul for Mark Buehler since his stroke Dec. 19, 1990.
But Mark never lost his sense of humor. It’s one of the things that saved him. Now he’s a shining example to other patients, said Larissa Pickett, an occupational therapist in Sun City Center.
“I want to help,” Mark said as he pulled on a green Theraband, a therapeutic tool used for strengthening arms, hands and shoulders.
Since beginning his therapy, Mark has gradually recovered enough to accomplish the tasks of daily living: dressing, bathing, cooking – even playing golf, although he still has trouble with speech.
“I am interested in providing support for other patients,” he said with some difficulty.
Then he laughs at himself.
Pickett, Mark’s other therapist Beth Fischer and a therapeutic assistant, Kelly Regina, all agree attitude is more than half the battle after having what many in the medical community now prefer to call a “brain attack” rather than a stroke.
“Too many people think strokes and heart attacks are the same thing,” said Dr. Ghassan Ksaibati, medical director of South Bay Hospital’s emergency department and a member of the West Central Florida Acute Stroke Committee, a group that sets policy on treatments. “A heart attack is caused by low blood flow to the heart and a stroke is an attack on the brain– a brain attack really. And it’s (stroke) the third leading cause of death in the U.S., with 700,000 people dying each year and those who don’t die ending up with some form of disability.”
While approximately one-third of the people who have strokes have heart problems, the two conditions are not always related, he said.
“About 10 percent of people – about 67,000 a year (in the U.S.) – have bleeding into the brain with it (the stroke),” he explained. “This is the worst kind, caused by a hemorrhage, or trauma of some kind.”
There is a very small window of time to save someone who has this type of stroke, he said. “The window can be from three to six hours, depending upon many factors, including where the patient gets treatment,” he said. “A trauma center where they have all the new techniques of course, is best.”
Strokes can also be caused by narrowing of the arteries, especially the carotid (in the neck) or from a clot in a different part of the body making its way through the blood vessels into the brain, or from a trauma, like an accident or blow to the head, he added.
Dr. Kamlesh Patel, a specialist in neurological disorders based at South Bay Hospital, explained the symptoms.
“There could be acute confusion that’s clearly not related to dementia,” Patel said. “Transient confusion.” (Meaning not all the time.)
Numbness, tingling , pins and needles or weakness, especially on one side of the body; difficulty in speech and clumsiness are also signs, he added.
Some patients, like Marianne Fedyschyn, never have a clue until the attack happens.
“They were waiting for me at the library (where she is a longtime volunteer) and I never showed up,” she said. “What had happened was that I rolled out of bed in my sleep. I knew something was wrong. I called 911 myself.”
Knowledge and prevention are key to getting, and staying healthy, Patel said.
People who want to learn more about strokes may visit the American stroke Association Web site at

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