Patricia Lopez shares brother's stroke story to help others

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Strokes can happen to anyone, at any time. Patricia Lopez's younger brother suffered one last year and she's sharing his story in hopes of saving others.

My younger brother is a crossfitter, jogger, soccer player and golfer. He's active, eats healthy and has never been hospitalized. He is 35 years old and had a stroke.

How? The doctors can't say for sure but he is alive, thank the good Lord!

My brother, Luis, helped save himself and a big reason why he is still with us. You see, this past November on a routine weeknight, he was getting ready for bed when he suddenly described a shock come over his body. He collapsed to the ground and couldn't walk or talk. He thought he had been electrocuted and tried to escape his apartment. He somehow managed to crawl out of his apartment out onto the hallway and call for help, but his speech was slurred and couldn't yell for help.

One man saw him and kept walking. Luckily two people came to his aide as he was lying helplessly on the ground near the elevator. His slurred speech and inability to get up from the floor had his neighbors question whether he had been drinking or on drugs. Still, those neighbors called 9-1-1. Once the EMTs arrived, they too asked if he was drunk or high. He couldn't respond.

At one point, the EMTs were going to let him "sleep it off" and return him to his apartment, but a neighbor insisted he needed to head to the emergency room just in case. He was rushed to Memorial Hermann Southwest with no clear diagnosis, until a doctor later confirmed he was having a stroke.

Immediately he was given a blood clot "buster" called Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to break up the clots. He was then airlifted to Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center and admitted into the ICU. After five days in the hospital, he was released.

Physically he is expected to make a full recovery. Mentally, he is traumatized by the recent events, but, he allowed me to share his story so it could help save someone else's life.

Strokes can happen to anyone, any age, any race and at any time. Look for these FAST signs, according to the American Stroke Association:

    F--Face Drooping - Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?
    A--Arm Weakness - Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
    S--Speech Difficulty - Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
    T--Time to call 9-1-1 - If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared.

My brother was treated as soon as possible for a stroke, but other people, even health care professionals may miss the signs, especially in younger patients. And if a stroke is not treated immediately, you could be left with permanent disabilities. In fact, strokes are the number one cause of adult disabilities in the United States.

Dr. Amoru Sarraj, UTHealth neurologist with the Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center, says it was a blood clot in his leg that probably caused Luis's stroke. Dr. Sarraj says Luis was fortunate because he immediately got the help he needed as soon as the signs of a stroke were confirmed. The other life saver, Dr. Sarraj says, is that Luis was taken to a hospital were a stroke specialist was present to notice the signs. Quality care and treatment is also vital according to his research.

Dr. Sarraj continues to research therapy in stroke patients. He was awarded a $1 million grant from Stryker Neurovascular last year. The new grant will fund a multi-institutional. Dr. Sarraj says there are potential health care cost savings and avoiding an unnecessary procedure.

UTHealth also introduced the nation's first Mobile Stroke Unit in 2014. It's an ambulance equipped with CT scanner to be part of EMS services in the Houston area. The idea is to get potential stroke patients the medical attention they need as soon as possible. The Mobile Stroke Unit carries the only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic stroke, the most prevalent kind, called tPA -- it's a clot buster. The medication must be given within three hours of the first signs of stroke to be most effective.
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