By Angela Cowan/News staff
When Kim Jordison was 34, she developed a severe headache at work, the most painful of her life.
The left side of her face was hanging and she couldn’t speak.
After the immediate severity passed, she told a co-worker what had happened, and they both made a joke of it.
“(My co-worker) said, maybe you’re having a stroke,” the Langford resident recalled. “We laughed about it.”
She downplayed that notion by telling herself strokes only happen to older people. Believing her symptoms weren’t that serious, she finished her work day then decided to drive herself to emergency. Staff there ran a number of tests before finally establishing she had suffered a transient ischemic attack.
TIAs, or mini-strokes, can last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours and are a significant warning sign that there’s something wrong with blood flow to the brain. They’re also most often associated with seniors, which made Jordison’s experience all the more difficult.
“The most frustrating part of it was even exhibiting signs of a stroke, and even coming in (a second time) in an ambulance, they just didn’t think that’s what was wrong with me,” she said.
Medical staff suggested Bell’s palsy to explain the facial paralysis, then did a lumbar puncture to test for meningitis. Eventually the doctors were able to determine Jordison had had a stroke.
While she admitted her experience was frightening, her situation is not as rare as might be expected.
A recent report from the Heart and Stroke Foundation stated that a stroke occurs in Canada every 10 minutes, and nine in every 10 Canadians have at least one risk factor for heart disease or stroke. A recent international study predicts stroke rates for younger generations – people as young as 24 – will double within the next 15 years.
“It’s so important to get awareness out,” said Shelley Nicholl, B.C.’s manager of public relations and communications for the Heart and Stroke Foundation. She said the warning signs: weakness or paralysis, trouble speaking, sudden headache, vision problems or sudden dizziness, should be taken seriously and checked immediately, even if it seems unlikely that it’s a stroke.
“(Strokes) don’t all happen the way the textbooks say. People just don’t realize that it can happen to anybody,” she said.
Jordison, now 40, said she wouldn’t wish the experience on anybody. But it did make her and her family more aware of the precious and precarious nature of life.
“Every day is a gift. You never know if you’re going to have a tomorrow.”
Nowadays, she and her family make a point of spending a lot of quality time together. They’ve set up a sort of bucket list, with an actual bucket.
“In the different seasons, we just write things in,” Jordison said. “One of the things was to go on a picnic, and I thought that was so easy we didn’t need to write it down. But you do need to actually make time for these things.”
Above all, she said, her perspective is what has been affected most.
“It just makes you appreciate life that much more.”
To find out more about strokes and other heart-related conditions, visit heartandstroke.ca or call 250-382-4035.