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Dr. Alexander Grunsfeld: What We Should All Know About Stroke

Dr. Alexander Grunsfeld photo

The symptoms of stroke come suddenly and without warning.

An arm doesn’t quite feel right. It just doesn’t want to obey. One side of the face droops. Speech is slurred. A nap feels like a good idea. Inside the body, a potentially deadly chain reaction is occurring.

A small piece of debris breaks free from a growing athersosclerotic plaque adhering to the wall of the internal carotid artery. It becomes lodged downstream in one of the small arteries that penetrate the brain, forming a clot - an impenetrable barrier to further blood flow to the brain.

In just minutes, a life can be devastated. The frightening part to the medical community, however, is that fully one-half of people experiencing a stroke fail to act. One study found that 51.4% of the participants with undiagnosed symptoms of a stroke did not seek medical attention for their symptoms.

This statistic lends even greater significance to the recent lifesaving action by 11 year-old Salem Elementary School student Danija Pender, who recognized stroke symptoms in her aunt, Ora Gordon at a family gathering on Easter Sunday and insisted that Ms. Gordon go the hospital. Danija’s mother drove her sister to Sentara Princess Anne Hospital where she was diagnosed with a stroke and received rapid, appropriate, brain-saving intervention.

Danija learned the symptoms of stroke from her physical education teacher, Kelly Jennings, who has been teaching her students for the last eight years about stroke as part of broader heart health education, using resources from the American Stroke Association.

Stroke education in Kelly’s class focuses on helping students understand the “F.A.S.T.” method of detecting a stroke (Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 9-1-1). Kelly has also created games for the students that incorporate the diagnosis of such symptoms to make learning fun and interactive.

A stroke occurs in the U.S. every 45 seconds and results in 130,000 deaths every year - the fifth most common cause of death. Of the 660,000 yearly survivors of stroke, a large portion will have to contend with debilitating disabilities.

Locally, Sentara Healthcare launched its ‘Save the Brain’ campaign this month with the goal of saving lives. Over the past two decades, therapies have been developed that can remove a blockage from the artery and effectively reverse a stroke, but only if the treatment is provided soon after the onset of symptoms. Stroke is a medical emergency. There is a limited therapeutic window of opportunity to intervene. Educating people about how to recognize when someone is having a stroke, and what to do about it, is of critical importance.

If you suspect that someone is having a stroke, note the time and act F.A.S.T.

Stroke signs chart

About the Author

Dr. Alexander Grunsfeld is Chief of Neurology for Sentara Medical Group and Medical Director, Sentara Neurosciences. He earned his medical degree at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (UMDNJ) in New Brunswick, NJ, in 2002. He went on to complete his internal medicine internship (in 2003), his neurology residency (in 2006) and his neurological critical care fellowship (in 2008) at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA. Before joining Sentara Neurology Specialists as the Chief of Neurology, Dr. Grunsfeld served as the Director of Stroke and NeuroCritical Care at Martha Jefferson Hospital, part of the larger Sentara Healthcare system, in Charlottesville, VA.

Dr. Grunsfeld is certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in both Neurology and Vascular Neurology. He is certified by the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties in Neurocritical Care. Dr. Grunsfeld is a member of the American Academy of Neurology, the Neurocritical Care Society, and the American Stroke Association.

Read More

Are you as involved in your child’s education as you would like to be? See what new research shows about parent engagement in our schools.

Whether it is helping a child with homework, volunteering at a school event or simply working with teachers when an issue arises, parents are taking an active role in our schools. A recent survey shows that levels of parent involvement are increasing. But, there is always room for the school division to create new opportunities for parents and the community to become in engaged. We wanted to know how satisfied parents are with current opportunities and what barriers may be keeping them from being more involved. The school division recently worked with the local research firm Issues and Answers to survey parents about their involvement and communication needs. You can learn more about the survey and see the results here.


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Last Modified on Thursday, May 07, 2015