Your Health First: Recognizing signs of stroke

Local News

Jim Brandenburg was driving from Williston to Bismarck for a work meeting last month. He stopped at a gas station to get coffee, where he realized something was off.

“I was asking about if this was still mountain time, and I couldn’t ask that question. Didn’t have speech,” 60-year-old Brandenburg said.

Sanford Health neurologist Dr. Jason Duchscherer says slurred speech is one of the many symptoms of a stroke.

“Sudden onset weakness, numbness, tingling, facial asymmetry, slurred speech, vision changes, imbalance, difficulty understanding or producing language,” Duchscherer said.

A stroke occurs when there’s a blockage of the blood vessels leading to the brain — cutting off oxygen and nutrients. Once symptoms show, every second without medical attention can be damaging.

“Most important thing to do is call 911 right away. We have a saying in neurology — time is brain. Every second of a stroke you’re losing hundreds, thousands, even millions of brain cells,” Duchscherer said.

Brandenburg knew the signs, and other than his speech, felt physically OK, so kept driving until he got to Sanford’s clinic in Mandan.

From there, he was taken to the hospital, where he was treated, and eventually regained his speech, albeit a little slower.

“Working to get energy back up to speed again. Doctors still trying to figure out why because I’m pretty healthy,” Brandenburg said.

Dr. Duchscherer says the four biggest risk factors for a stroke are high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes and high LDL cholesterol.

But because Brandenburg is overall healthy, doctors were puzzled about the incident — but they think a small hole in his heart could have played a role.

Brandenburg says getting help quickly was crucial in his ability to recover.

“God works in mysterious ways. I had a stroke when I had a meeting close to Bismarck, and my understanding is good doctors here, and so it’s just amazing how it worked out,” Brandenburg said.

Brandenburg says after the incident, he went back to the gas station and other places along the way from Williston to Bismarck to ask business managers if their employees were trained on knowing the signs of stroke.

He says they weren’t.

He says knowing the symptoms and having a few questions prepared to determine if someone could be experiencing a stroke is important for anybody.

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