Here’s a Stroke of Genius: Educate Yourself on the Signs and Symptoms of Stroke

May 17, 2012
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xxxCharles “Chuck” Dimascio considers himself a lucky man especially in spite of what could have been.

In March 2011 Dimascio was enjoying a midday Saturday watching television while his wife, Violet, prepared lunch.  Initially, Dimascio felt odd, perhaps a bit light-headed and faint.  He got up, looked into the bathroom mirror and saw that the entire right side of his face was drooping.

After lying down in the downstairs bedroom he felt a bit better, for just a few minutes, when he realized he couldn’t lift his right arm or leg.  His wife called out to him and when he attempted to answer, he realized he couldn’t speak.  Or at least the words he attempted to speak were just garbled noise.

When his wife entered the room, she found him with fear in his eyes, his right side unable to move and unintelligible speech.  Violet Dimascio said, “I’m calling 911.”

Though he is not overweight, eats healthy and exercises four or five times a week, Dimascio, age 50, had gone from healthy and feeling fine to experiencing a major stroke in less than 10 minutes.  The La Verne resident had no known health issues, does not smoke and has no family history of stroke.

Within five minutes of his wife’s call to 911 the La Verne paramedics were at his side and loading him for transport to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC).  Certified as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission, PVHMC is a participant the Los Angeles County Stroke Centers network and is also a member in the Inland Counties Emergency Medical Agency (ICEMA) as a Neurovascular Stroke Receiving Center for the three county area including San Bernardino, Inyo and Mono counties.  Hospitals participating in these networks receive select 911 stroke patients who are transported to a Primary Stroke Center – rather than the nearest hospital – in order to optimize care and minimize death or disability from stroke.

Less than an hour from his most vague sensations Dimascio lay unable to speak coherently, listening while his wife responded to questions from PVHMC’s Emergency what had occurred at home.  Within minutes of his arrival at the Pomona hospital, Dimascio was administered tPA, known as the clot-busting medicine.  Ideally tPA should be administered within the first 4.5 hours of the onset of stroke symptoms.  Luckily, Dimascio’s tPA treatment was within this range.

Dimascio spent the next five days in ICU.  Doctors, howeer, discovered that his stroke was caused by atrial fibrillation, or an irregular heartbeat, which necessitated a pacemaker to be implanted.

Today, Dimascio considers himself to be 90 percent functional on his right side.  He still experiences a tingling sensation there and has difficulty closing buttons or any fine motor skill task with his right hand.  He also has a delayed response to heat on his right side but rather first experiences a tingling and then the sensation of heat.

Dimascio considers himself fortunate.  “In comparison to where I could be I’m willing to live with it” he claims in reference to any odd sensations or motor skill difficulties on his right side.  He knows that “I could be totally incapacitated.  I feel so fortunate, considering what I went through.”

Dimascio has several recommendations for people.

“Be aware of the signs and symptoms of stroke, do regular visits with your doctor and keep a phone near you at all times.  I work from home and if my wife hadn’t been home that Saturday…,” he states as his words trail off.

Pomona Valley Hospital is holding a Stroke Awareness Day this Saturday, May 19 from 9 a.m. to noon in the Hospital’s Pitzer Patio at 1798 N. Garey Ave.  The event is free and will offer blood pressure screenings and stroke risk assessments.  Education on the signs and symptoms of stroke will be provided plus information on what to do in the event of a stroke.  The Hospital will showcase the newest technology in stroke diagnostics, recreational adaptive equipment and interactive games for stroke survivors.  Resources for stroke caregivers and information on stroke programs will be available.

Dimascio says he is eternally grateful to his wife, to the La Verne paramedics and for “the incredible care at PVHMC.”  Whereas he would never want to experience something like his stroke again, Dimascio claims he’s “a better person for it.”

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