By GAIL LOWE
On the night of Tuesday, Oct. 21, my husband Tony — a high tech gadgeteer to the max — could not remember how to turn off our TV with the remote control.
I had already gone to bed, so I had no idea what had happened. But a day or so later when we were setting the table for company, he asked me to get the “wine tables” out of the dining room cabinet and I knew then that something was wrong.
“You mean wine glasses, right?” I said.
That night I listened carefully to the conversation at the dinner table. I heard Tony say “snow” when he meant “rain” and a few other misused words. The following morning, I told him what I had been observing all week and he said he knew about it. I then said, “Make an appointment with your doctor. Don’t let it go.”
Women reading this column will understand when I say that men can be stubborn, that they often refuse to listen to their wives. Every day he continued to go to work and a full nine days passed before he finally made the call. Today, he has the good fortune to be alive.
After spending a few nights at Lahey Clinic, he came home a changed man. A mild stroke had affected his speech center and that impacts a large portion of his (our) lives. I now have to listen very carefully to what he is saying because of the verbal mix-ups. In order to cut his risk for a future stroke, he must take a blood thinning drug every day.
Tony has always been a healthy eater — there are lots of fruits and vegetables in our house — and he has been health conscious over the years, too, exercising regularly and being careful not to overdo anything and he does not smoke.
Even so, there was this stroke that has taken away his ability to work. Fortunately, he still has good overall quality of life, in spite of some speech difficulties. I only hope it continues. We had a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, beginning with Tony’s life.
Some facts about stroke, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
• Stroke kills almost 130,000 Americans each year. Stroke is responsible for 1 out of every 19 deaths.
• On average, one American dies from stroke every four minutes.
• Every year, more than 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke. About 610,000 of this number are first or new strokes.
• About 87 percent of all strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is blocked.
• Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability.
Although stroke risk increases with age, they can happen at any age. In 2009, more than one-third of all stroke sufferers were younger than 65.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and obesity are major risk factors for stroke. So is smoking, excess alcohol consumption and lack of exercise.
Family members of people who have strokes are forever on guard because they never know if there will be a repeat. The CDC says that one stroke can lead to another if the victim does not take steps to improve his or her lifestyle choices.
The sparing of Tony’s life is the best Christmas gift ever, one that we didn’t anticipate. There was no price tag or fancy gift wrap. Thank you, God.
Let his story serve as an example. Spare your own life, too. In the new year, make it a priority to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels checked. Watch your alcohol intake, get serious about quitting smoking — and for goodness’ sake, get off the couch. Good health is a gift you give yourself — and your loved ones.