(WKBN) – May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and during this COVID-19 pandemic, experts say it is even more important to know how to respond if you or someone you know is having a stroke.
“My dad was a real outgoing guy. Had a lot of energy, worked really hard. He was like the foundation and rock of our family, everyone went to him for advice,” said Campbell resident Mark Matasic.
In March 2015, Mark was having a typical lunch with his father Stephen, but then something went wrong.
“Everything was normal, then he started to slur his speech. I didn’t know what was going on. It was weird. Then he started to look confused, like, disoriented,” Mark said.
Stephen was having a stroke, but neither he nor Mark would know that until paramedics arrived.
Stephen was initially brought to St. Elizabeth Hospital in Youngstown but eventually moved to the Cleveland Clinic.
He couldn’t talk, eat or even move, but he had brain function and could open his eyes. For the next year, eye movement was the only way he could communicate.
Stephen died from complications of that stroke in 2016.
“I don’t want anyone else to go through what he went through or what the family went through,” Mark said.
Dr. Andrew Southerland, a stroke expert at the University of Virginia Health, says they’re seeing a connection between blood clots and coronavirus patients.
“Blood clots are one important cause of stroke where it prevents blood and oxygen from getting to the brain. So these two conditions we’re seeing may exist together in the same person,” Dr. Southerland said.
Dr. Southerland also said research for the month of April showed that 40% of the country didn’t seek emergency care when they showed signs of a stroke because of concerns over going to the hospital during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Don’t hesitate. In an emergency condition like stroke, it still is very critical to call 911 and come to the hospital,” Dr. Southerland said.
Now, Mark is a spokesperson for the American Stroke Association, wanting to help people understand the signs of a stroke and how they can find the best care possible.
For more information on advanced stroke center certifications, visit www.JointCommission.org.