This is how it usually goes.
You’re having dinner with friends when your husband notices that you’re slurring your words.
Perhaps you’re out on a morning stroll when your movements become jerky, as if half of the unseen threads that govern your limbs have been severed.
Perhaps a crippling migraine or a starburst at the back of the brain is the signal.
Maybe you’re on your own.
Alternatively, you may drive on the highway, which is the worst of all.
A 70-year-old man, golf ball hunter, and devoted spouse of 51 years, was in this situation.
In Houston, it was a beautiful day.
He was on his way to Galveston to pay a courtesy visit to a valued customer.
For a brief while, the Gulf Freeway was rising to cross El Dorado Boulevard, and the vision through the glass was restricted to the gray race of the road and the clear sky.
What follows is difficult to put into words.
Darkness, disorientation, the world pulling away from you, and inputs going lifeless.
A peaceful, unthinking, eternal glide across four lanes of traffic — until his Mercedes-Benz collides with the motorway barrier, jolting him awake and veering back into the pandemonium and brightness.
He realizes the danger hasn’t gone when the Benz finally pulls to a halt.
Despite this, he is unable to intervene.
Because the violence in his brain is still going on.
It’s one of the most dreaded medical situations.
What else might make you believe you’d rather suffer a heart attack than a stroke?
Heart attacks are more deadly, but if you survive, you may go on with your life as usual – without a dimmer intellect or the loss of vital body processes.
There is no such guarantee with strokes.
Approximately 40% of stroke survivors need special care, 25% have considerable cognitive deterioration, and an average of 17% will be released to long-term care. So say ERs in the United States.
This is not the place to sit back and reflect on one’s achievements in life.
The analogy to heart attacks isn’t coincidental.
The great majority of strokes — or, to use the textbook phrase, “cerebrovascular accidents” — are caused by a stoppage in blood flow.
However, unlike a heart attack, which has a plethora of quick treatments, a stroke has proved to be excruciatingly difficult to cure.
More than 1,000 medications have been tried, with the majority of them failing miserably.
Due to a lack of advancement, researchers have turned to unconventional methods.
Brain cooling, TMS, and lasers administered via the nose are all options.
Peach pits and Malayan pit viper venom are used to make drugs.
Doctors were no closer to developing a therapy for strokes in the early 1990s than they had been 50 years before.
As the expression goes, “diagnose and adios.”
There is nothing that can be done. Especially when diagnosis and treatment are delayed by even an hour.
But with a mobile CT brain scanner the scenario changes. Becomes more hopeful. Patients suffering from a stroke or the symptoms of a stroke can get an immediate, if rough, diagnosis, while riding in the ambulance to the hospital. Or even on a plane flight.
Small portable mobile CT scan devices are now being worked on by several cutting edge technology companies around the globe. And although Covid-19 slowed down the research and implementation substantially, the best guess today is that by late 2023 mobile CT brain scanners will be up and running in major metropolitan ambulances. And on many commercial flights. The terror and damage of a stroke will lessen considerably.
It’s a ray of hope in the post pandemic gloom!