‘Detour Dan’ Beach advocates awareness 1 year after suffering stroke
PHOENIX — May is Stroke Awareness Month, something our own “Detour Dan” Beach became all too familiar with just over a year ago.
On May 13, 2019, just one day after Mother’s Day, Detour Dan suffered a stroke.
“I woke up feeling a little bit off. I wasn’t moving right,” he said. “I was sluggish. I didn’t have the muscle control.”
After arriving at work and walking up a flight of stairs that he said felt like Mt. Kilimanjaro, Detour Dan began profusely sweating.
“I was winded,” he said. “I went into my booth and still kept telling myself, ‘It’s just a bad morning.'”
But that’s when he noticed that his lips were numb and approached KTAR News Director Martha Maurer, who called 9-1-1. When paramedics arrived, Beach’s blood pressure was so high that the Barrow mobile stroke unit was called.
“That’s when my whole world changed,” he said. “I was looking at a computer laptop at a face of a neurologist that was asking me life-saving questions. They got me to the Barrow Neurological Stroke Center and took care of me. Within minutes, I was in a CAT scan and got a life-saving blood-thinner medication.
“I didn’t realize until later how serious it was. Thank God I was in their hands.”
Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S. and No. 2 in the entire world, according to Dr. Supreet Kaur, a neurologist in the stroke program and an assistant professor of neurology at Barrow Neurological Institute.
Kaur — who was also Detour Dan’s doctor — added that every 40 seconds, somebody in the U.S. suffers a stroke and that every four minutes, someone in the U.S. dies from one.
“It is the No. 1 leading cause of long-term disability in people,” she said. “And that’s because unlike other organs in the body, the brain cannot regenerate once an area of it dies from blockage of the artery.”
That’s why the velocity in which a stroke patient receives care is of the utmost importance. Each passing second that a stroke victim goes without removing the clot and restoring blood and oxygen to the brain will result in long-term disabilities and longer recovery times.
However, not all strokes are created equal. Different parts of the body and brain are affected depending on the severity and location, which can also affect long-term disabilities and recovery efforts.
“How big is the stroke? Where is the location of the stroke? Is it in an eloquent area? Meaning an area that controls your language or your arm and leg,” Kaur said.
“Depending on where it is, your recovery may be very different compared to somebody who has a stroke in an area which is not that eloquent. It has big controls, but it’s not very physical, so you can still walk and talk but you may have maybe a little bit of a vision problem or maybe a little bit of a balance issue.”
Kaur added that each stroke is different for every patient, including recovery, which depends on a variety of factors such as age, size and location of the stroke, and the patient’s prior health conditions.
Those that are most vulnerable to suffer a stroke include the elderly, those who have already suffered a stroke, have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol or heart problems.
“About 85-87% of strokes happen because of a blood clot that blocks the blood vessel, so we’ve had a clot-buster medication already since 1995,” Kaur said. “[That trial] showed that the medication was able to dissolve the clot and improve outcomes at 90 days.
“The [two trials] that came out in the past 2-5 years is not a medication. It’s a surgical treatment where you basically go in through the groin with a catheter and go up and take the clot out.”
When the surgical tPA treatment (tissue plasminogen activator) was initially trialed, it showed that stroke victims could receive it up to six hours after the onset of symptoms. However, recent trials have shown that certain patients have a better backup mechanism to keep brain tissue alive, which allows them to receive the catheter treatment up to 24 hours after symptoms begin.
“I think [Detour Dan] was very, very fortunate because his stroke was actually in one of those eloquent areas that control your arm and leg,” Kaur said.
“If the stroke had been just a little bit larger or in a different location nearby, he would have been in big, big trouble.”
Kaur said that the sooner the clot-buster medication is administered, the better the chances of recovery are.
“We had a mobile stroke unit, a mobile ambulance, which was able to go to him directly and able to do his CT scan right there in that van — in that ambulance — and start treatment with that medication called tPA right there,” she said.
Kaur also noted the new stroke recognition acronym BE FAST, which stands for balance, eye, face, arms, speech and time.
“When your face may droop, your lips may droop, your tongue may not work the way it’s supposed to, your arms may not moving the way they’re supposed to, your speech may be slurred, and T for time,” Detour Dan said.
“That means you need to call 9-1-1 right now. Every second may make a difference in what the rest of your life looks like.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Jayme West and Peter Samore contributed to this report.