Anchor woman who had airborne stroke

Stroke - Correctly interpreting symptoms: Detect with this test

When you have a stroke, every minute counts. Rapid treatment increases the chance of preventing permanent brain damage - or at least reducing it. Which test can help with this.

It is this one moment that Dunja Delker never forgets: She lies in the ambulance, dazed by dizziness and pain. Her husband is standing in front of the house. The baby in her arms, the five-year-old son by the hand. The car drives off towards the hospital and Dunja Delker thinks: How can it work without me? The sudden separation from her children - it hits them harder than their diagnosis: stroke. At 38 years of age.

What happened? Dunja Delker takes weeks to understand it. You, the young mother and journalist, who has both feet firmly on the ground - and suddenly needs a walker.

A stroke can hit anyone

She is one of around 33,000 people affected each year in Germany who suffer a stroke before the age of 55. "I was completely overwhelmed by the diagnosis," remembers the Gütersloherin. "You don't count on it at 38 years of age." Today she is 43.

More than 80 percent of stroke patients are actually older than 60 years. But basically anyone can get a stroke, from infants to old people, says neurologist Thomas Kloß, chief physician at the Neurology Clinic at St. Elisabeth Hospital and the LWL Clinic in Gütersloh.

Processes in the body

What actually happens in the body? "The so-called ischemic stroke, the cerebral infarction, occurs most frequently," explains Kloß. "This closes a blood vessel in the brain. If this blockage is left untreated, nerve cells die because the brain is no longer supplied with oxygen in the affected areas."

A second, less common cause of a stroke is cerebral haemorrhage, in which a vessel in the brain bursts, he explains. As a result, certain areas of the brain would no longer be adequately supplied with blood. The bleeding could cause considerable damage in the brain.

Neurological damage after a few minutes

On average, 1.9 million nerve cells per minute die in a stroke. Neurological damage occurs after just a few minutes, which usually cannot be reversed.

According to the German Stroke Aid, around 270,000 people in this country suffer a stroke every year. Smokers and people who are overweight, have high blood pressure or diabetes mellitus are particularly at risk.

Dunja Delker did not belong to the risk group. She exercised, did not smoke, and rarely drank alcohol. Yet it hit her.

It started with dizziness and a headache

It all started in February 2015, the morning after Weiberfastnacht. She woke up feeling very dizzy, had a headache, and had problems with her balance. "It couldn't be a hangover," she says. "I drank a maximum of three glasses of champagne." Dunja Delker dragged herself through the day - picked up the children from daycare and even held the coffee invitation with friends.

Hours passed and she kept thinking: This will be better. It wasn't. The next morning she couldn't get out of bed. Her husband called the ambulance and everything happened very quickly. Dunja Delker was driven to the next stroke unit - these are specialized stroke units that can make diagnoses and initiate immediate therapies within a few hours.

Help asap

"Every patient with a suspected stroke belongs to such a stroke unit," says emergency physician Prof. Claus-Martin Muth, head of the emergency medicine section at the Clinic for Anaesthesiology at the Ulm University Hospital. "You can be reached by ambulance from anywhere in Germany within the lysis time." There are more than 300 certified institutions nationwide.

Lysis time - by this doctors mean the time window between the acute occurrence of the stroke and treatment. Lysis stands for thrombolysis, a drug therapy with which in many cases the blood clot in the brain can be dissolved. "The sooner this therapy begins, the better," emphasizes neurologist Thomas Kloß. If a stroke is suspected, the ambulance service should therefore be called as soon as possible so that treatment on a stroke unit can take place promptly.

How laypeople recognize a stroke

But many patients do not come to the clinics on time. "The symptoms are often noticed too late or not correctly interpreted," says anesthesiologist Claus-Martin Muth. To prevent this, medical laypersons could still use the so-called FAST test on site. The letters stand for the English words Face, Arms, Speech, Time (also: face, arms, language, time).

Muth explains: "When a stroke is suspected, part of the face is often paralyzed. Ask the affected person to smile. If this is difficult, this is a clear sign." Even if the person finds it difficult to raise both arms at the same time, the ambulance should be called immediately - just as if the speech suddenly sounds slurred. Other signs are numbness, dizziness with unsteadiness as well as very severe headaches.

Declining complaints are deceptive

"If even one of the symptoms occurs, it is important to hurry," says Muth. "Even if the symptoms subside by themselves." The transitory ischemic attack (TIA) could be behind this. Symptoms usually go away after a few minutes or hours. "The TIA is often a harbinger of a stroke and always a reason to call the ambulance. Even if there are no more symptoms," explains Thomas Kloß.

Until the ambulance arrives, those present should provide first aid. "If the person is conscious, they should lie or sit slightly elevated and not be left alone. If they are not breathing, cardiopulmonary resuscitation should be started immediately," says Claus-Martin Muth.

Hardly any consequential damage despite the long waiting time

Dunja Delker waited too long until she realized the seriousness of the situation - but she was lucky in the misfortune. Even if it took a long time to get treatment, there was hardly any consequential damage. Today, five years after the stroke, only a tingling sensation occurs in the right half of the body when she is demanding too much. In addition, one eye is a little more closed than the other.

In order to regain confidence in her body, it is good for her to talk to other people affected. She was helped by the German Stroke Aid, which looks after self-help groups and trains volunteers.

Prevent stroke

"There are several ways to prevent a stroke and other cardiovascular diseases in principle," says neurologist Thomas Kloß. This included regular exercise, little alcohol consumption, a healthy, balanced diet and, for people with diabetes, good blood sugar control.

Although Dunja Delker never belonged to the risk group, she too changed her life. She works again, takes care of her children - but sometimes she does it for a long time when everything becomes too much. "That's the biggest lesson I've learned," she says. "Listen to your own body and enjoy life even more."

Important NOTE: The information is in no way a substitute for professional advice or treatment by trained and recognized doctors. The contents of t-online cannot and must not be used to independently make diagnoses or start treatments.

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