An Irishman's Diary

Wed, Oct 3, 2012, 01:00

A MESSAGE from the Department of Health’s Stroke Prevention Unit.

Recent incidents reported widely in the media have helped increased public awareness about the problem of strokes. But there remains a high level of confusion about how strokes can be prevented or, having occurred, how their effects can be minimised. Here are a list of the most frequently asked questions.

Q: What is a stroke?

A: A stroke is a temporary or permanent loss of higher brain function, generally caused by a blockage in the area that involves ethical decision-making.

Q: Is there always a clot involved?

A: No. Often the person responsible is highly intelligent.

Q: Can a major stroke occur without warning?

A: Yes, but in many cases there will first be one or more mini-strokes which, if not identified and treated early enough, may culminate in a major incident.

Q: What are the known risk factors?

A: Any two of the following can significantly increase the likelihood of a person pulling a stroke: alcohol intake (especially in the Dáil bar); a history of attending late-night meetings in smoke-filled rooms; sedentary lifestyle; high blood pressure; poor diet; sharing multiple seat constituencies with colleagues who have more time than you for canvassing.

Q: Is sedentary lifestyle especially dangerous?

A: Yes. Spending too long in a seat can greatly increase the incidence of stroke-pulling. But even a person who has led a very active life and then suddenly takes a seat – especially if it’s a marginal seat – can also be at risk.

Q: What happens when somebody pulls a stroke?

A: Loss of vision (assuming there was any vision to start with). Impairment of analytical skills, especially list-compilation. Speech difficulties, including an inability to give straight answers when required. Reduced cranial and neck sensitivity. Occasional loss of junior staff.

Q: Are writing skills affected?

A: Yes, after a suspected stroke, some patients may have to get their constituency secretaries to write to people, assuring them that – say – a Traveller family will not be housed nearby and implying there was a favour involved, but not in such a way that anyone could prove it.

Q: What is a “cute hoor”?

A: Acute hoorism – not to be confused with chronic hoorism – is a condition whereby a person or persons previously considered ethical suddenly experience an urge to pull a stroke. Chronic hoorism, by contrast, is a sometimes life-long inability to see a possible stroke and not pull it. The latter condition was thought to have been eradicated in February 2011, but a number of suspected new cases have since been reported.

Q: Is there a difference between a left-side stroke and a right-side one?

A: Yes, right-sided strokes tend to be bigger, because the right side controls most major functions in the body politic. But left-side strokes are by no means uncommon, and can be equally unpleasant when they happen.

Q: Can a right-side stroke cause partial paralysis on the left?

A: It appears so.

Q: Does this sometimes prevent the left from doing, as it were, the right thing?

A: Yes.

Q: Can the effects of a stroke disappear completely overnight?

A: Yes, in one famous case in West Dublin, a stroke caused newly-planted trees to appear in a housing estate on the eve of a by-election. This was expected to result in the success of Candidate A. But in fact, Candidate B was elected. Then the trees were removed as well. The stroke left no apparent after-effects whatsoever.

Q: Can health service stake-holders do anything to prevent strokes happening?

A: Maybe. If you have a stake, you could try driving it through the heart of gombeen politics at a crossroads around midnight and then decapitating the body and burying the head separately, having stuffing garlic in its mouth. But really, you’d be better off leaving that sort of thing to professionals.

Q : Is there a useful acronym for a list of questions by which people can identify a stroke and know what to do?

A: Yes, it’s called FAST and it goes as follows: F: Face. Has a politician’s face changed suddenly, causing him to wink in a knowing manner or to make a gesture, with the addition of a finger pressed to his lips or nose, suggesting the need for silence? A: Arms. Have other people’s arms developed a habit of slapping the politician’s back, or scratching it, for no apparent reason? S: Speech. Is the politician experiencing speech difficulties, such as a speech in which his junior minister gets through a whole confidence-motion debate without mentioning his name? Conversely, have you heard the politician asking anybody: “You won’t forget that come polling day now, will you?” T: Time. If the answer to any of the above is Yes, there may be grounds to believe that the politician has pulled a FAST one. In that case, it’s time to call your nearest newspaper. Don’t delay. Our stroke specialists are waiting to hear from you now.

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