Victoria Brewster, MSW

Victoria Brewster, MSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Strokes: The Devastation and Recovery of

By Victoria Brewster, MSW
Guest Blogger

Three excellent books to read ‘My Stroke of Insight‘ by Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, ‘The Brain that Changes Itself‘ by Norman Doidge, MD and ‘Life after Stroke: The guide to recovering your health and preventing another stroke‘ by Joel Stein, Julie Silver, and Elizabeth Pegg Frates. All are excellent resources.

Strokes are the number 3 killer in Canada and the number 4 killer in the U.S. 80% of strokes are Ischemic and 20% are Hemorrhages.

Imagine waking up one morning with a terrible headache, beginning your daily morning routine-the headache worsens and you begin to realize something is wrong, but you do not know what. Symptoms: headache, blurry vision, tingling in body, balance is off….

DIAL 911!

S= speech



O=off balance

K=killer headache

E=eyes-problem with vision

(taken from My Stroke of Insight, pg. 26)

If you are unsure of what you are witnessing if it is someone else, I was told to ask:

1- Ask the person to smile

2- Ask the person to raise both arms above their head

3- Ask the person their name

These 3 questions will also cue you in to the health risk that could be occurring right before your eyes. It is extremely important that medical attention and evaluation happen in a hospital before 3 hours has gone by to minimize any possible damage to the brain, and to hope for a full recovery.

Society needs to realize the risks; know the symptoms!

As one who has a genetic pre-disposition to strokes (family members who have died from or have had mini-strokes along with high blood pressure) I have made a point to educate myself. Also, I have had a few clients suffer strokes over the past 6 months. These are clients I have known for many years.

It is very hard to see one who was so vibrant, and independent  lie in a hospital bed with aphasia (inability to speak), paralyzed on one side of their body, not knowing who they are,and  cannot talk about feelings. They are not the same person anymore.

But what is important to remember is the importance of the recovery process. This is where neuroplasticity comes in, physiotherapy, caregivers, family, friends and other professionals.

Neuroplasticity you ask? The brains ability to relearn, to improve in functioning, the fluidity in that the structure of the brain changes.

If the stroke affected the right side of the brain, it is the left side of the brain that must learn those activities and vice versa.

‘The Brain that Changes Itself’ is an excellent resource and describes the scientific journey of neuroplasticity over many years long with the various scientists and philospohers who touched on the subject, performed research, etc.

It is because of a few important researchers that we know so much about the brain, the importance of MRI’s, the map of the brain, treatment, and the importance of therapy. These include physiotherapy, Cognitive Linguistic Therapy, PACE (Promoting Aphasic’s Communicative Effectiveness) and Pharmacology (medications) for those that have suffered a stroke.

I find too many professionals do not educate or continue to educate themselves, but really we need to in order to be able to assist our clients.

Continuing education is a  journey through life whether it is a personal interest, professional interest, formal education or certification process, and reading  is so important.

Please share your thoughts with me on this topic. Healthcare affects everyone whether it is ourselves, a family member, friend, colleague or client.

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