Painting and drawing have always been Frank Hoffman's means of intellectual and artistic expression. After suffering a stroke, he now includes his artwork as a means of therapy. Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or stopped. It can be caused by a rupture of a blood vessel or, in most cases, blockage from a blood clot. When this happens, nerve cells in the brain do not get the oxygen and nutrients they need. These nerve cells can become damaged or die within minutes. Movement, speech, memory and other activities can be affected. If the damage is too severe, death can result. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States. They estimate that 795,000 people in the United States will have a stroke and about 137,000 Americans die of stroke every year. The good news is that the faster treatment for stroke is begun, the better the result. "Successful stroke treatment can be extremely time sensitive," said Paul Schanfield, MD, stroke director at United Hospital and a neurologist with Neurological Associates of St. Paul. "You cannot restore the tissue once cell death occurs, but rapid reestablishment of blood flow leads to recovery of injured and threatened brain cells. The clock is ticking and the sooner the treatment is started, the better." Hoffman had his stroke on Nov. 14, 2009. He, his wife, Lolly, and daughter were attending a party in St. Paul; a party that happened to be across the street from a fire department. He was sitting next to his wife when he realized that something wasn't right. Lolly Hoffman soon realized something was wrong, too, but many saw his attempt to leave the party as the staggering of someone who has had too much to drink. "My wife said, 'he's not drunk, something is wrong,' " said Hoffman. Their daughter ran across the street to the fire department. Hoffman was quickly taken by ambulance to United Hospital. Because Hoffman was in St. Paul and being taken to United by a St. Paul emergency medical team, his diagnosis began immediately. Emergency medical staff are trained to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke and to activate United's stroke team. United is recognized by the Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center. One of the elements of a Primary Stroke Center is a stroke team that can quickly evaluate patients and begin treatment. A CT scan revealed that Hoffman had a blocked blood vessel in the left side of his brain. He was given an IV of clot dissolving medication that quickly reopened the blood vessel. "Frank was lucky. Timing is critical in treating stroke. His diagnosis was quickly made and treatment started," said Schanfield. "The problem we have is that people are not coming in to the hospital soon enough for treatment when they have had a stroke." Hoffman agrees with his doctor. "My short-term memory isn't what it used to be," said Hoffman. "But I feel good, I'm continuing to improve." And he's drawing and painting again, activities his physical therapists encourage to help him recover.
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