Stroke Awareness

Following his recent stroke, U.S. Senator Mark Kirk had surgery at Chicago’s northwestern memorial hospital to remove part of his skull and relieve swelling in his brain.

The 52-year-old Republican is one of almost 800,000 people worldwide to suffer a stroke each year, according to the National Stroke Association.

A local doctor shared some life-saving knowledge about stroke.

“There are two kinds of stroke: Ischemic stroke or clogging and then bleeding stroke,” said Mohammad Sajed. “The more common is clogging stroke, where you find a small clot, from the heart or the arteries in the neck, goes up into the brain and [that] kind of obstructs the arteries up there and that cause less amount of blood and the nutrients going to the brain and the brain starts dying.”

Two million brain cells die each minute, which could cause permanent disability or even death if not treated quickly, but it’s easily overlooked.

“It doesn’t cause you to have pain in most of the causes so that’s why people wait,” added Sajed. “But anytime you have numbness, weakness, sudden serial headache you should go to the ER. The sooner you get to the ER, the sooner we can start treating you & save the brain.”

Naperville resident Bill Mueller remembers having a stroke when he was 52, Senator Kirk’s age now. One day Mueller’s wife noticed something was very wrong.

“She got quite upset and said something is happening and showed me in the mirror where the right side of my face, my eyes, and lips on this side started to droop dramatically,” said Mueller. “She said, ‘Something’s wrong here. You have to go to the doctor.’”

It turned out Mueller had torn his carotid artery on the right side of his neck while lifting weights. That ultimately led to his stroke.

Sajed says to reduce your odds, stick to a low-cholesterol diet. Eat fruits and vegetables and exercise 30 minutes a day. If you smoke, quit. Above all, be sure to manage your blood pressure.

A simple stroke awareness test at can determine if you’re at risk.

Nearly 15 years after his stroke, Mueller still feels tingling in his left fingertips, toes, and calf…perhaps permanent reminders of these guidelines.

“It makes you aware that you have to take care of yourself,” said Mueller. “I’m probably the classic example of never warming up before I work out and now I take better care of myself. When I play golf, I try to walk instead of ride, I keep active to a certain degree.”

As for Senator Kirk, doctors expect him to make a full mental recovery down the road but say he may have permanent facial paralysis and reduced motor functioning in his left arm and leg.


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