Each year, nearly 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke and out of that number, roughly 140,000 people die.
Often times stroke symptoms can take victims by surprise.
Byron Buelow of Barre Mills was one of those victims of a stroke that took him by surprise one day on Lake Onalaska. Byron says, "The day was going along. My wife was being quite smart and catching more fish than I was and I kind of took that with a grain of salt. And as the day moved along, we had enough fish and we were going to pick up and leave."
That's the moment when his wife, Char, had a feeling something just wasn't right. Byron continued, "My wife turned to me and said to me, 'What's wrong with you?' and I couldn't talk." Char thought Byron wasn't talking because he was upset he didn't catch as many fish as she did, but the Buelow's got off the lake and went to Mayo Clinic Health System anyway. Byron describes his wife's actions saying, "She walked up to the desk and kind of went right to the front and said 'Excuse me. My husband is either having a heart attack or a stroke.' And with that comment being made, the button was hit. At that point, the action really picked up in a hurry."
Dr. Pat Bryant was the neurologist Byron saw at Mayo. Dr. Bryant said, "Some people don't have all the symptoms. Confusion is one thing that could be a stroke. As I remember, he was having trouble speaking. That is one of the most important signs." Once those symptoms appear, the clock of life begins to tick, but something can be done if you act fast.
If you act fast, Dr. Bryant says there's a drug that can turn things around. He adds, "Clot buster drug is a drug that is given in IV, which breaks up the clot and it allows the blood supply to the brain to be re-established. But there is only a small time window that you can get the drug and all the time that is wasted, brain cells are dying."
That time window is about four hours and Byron received that drug with fifteen minutes to spare. Forty-eight hours later he was in recovery relearning to speak. Dr. Pat added, "You're born with a certain amount of brain cells and you don't get anymore, so when you recover from a stroke it's relearning the things that you've lost."
Byron's stories may take a little longer to get through nowadays, something him and his friends like to joke about. Byron, when talking about his friends said, "They'd always say that's a Byron Buelow-ism."
Byron is doing well and has not lost a bit of his personality or humor. He continues to take medication to remain healthy. Dr. Pat Bryant added that family medical history is important to look at and review. You can't change your family's medical history, but you can learn from it and change your own habits to prevent the possibility of a stroke. Exercising, maintaining an ideal weight, and eating healthy are important in preventing a stroke.