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Everyone a Candidate To Suffer a Stroke

By JOSELYN KING

Staff Writer

WHEELING — Delegate Erikka Storch said she’s learned not to “sweat the small stuff” after suffering an ischemic stroke last summer, even though stress is an innate part of her life.

A Republican from Wheeling who also serves as president of Wheeling Area Chamber of Commerce, Storch said in terms of health she was far from being the typical candidate for a stroke.

She is careful about what she eats, has never smoked and never had any of the medical conditions conducive to stroke — such as hypertension or high cholesterol.

And Storch exercises regularly. At the time of her stroke in the early morning hours on Aug. 27, she was working out at the fitness center owned by her legislative colleague, W.Va. Sen. Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio.

“I was the most healthy that I ever was,” Storch said.

“I had just finished competing in the Community Fitness Challenge.”

After a crossfit workout, she said she remembers going into the restroom to wash her hands. A woman in the restroom soon found her on the floor leaning against a wall, and she went to get Ferns.

Storch said she had difficulty speaking and had numbness in her face. She remembers Ferns coming to her aid, and that he immediately determined she was having a stroke. Storch was later taken by medical helicopter to UPMC Pittsburgh.

An ischemic stroke occurs when there is an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. Doctors at UPMC quickly started the procedure to insert a wired-caged device called a stent retriever into her inner leg, which then traveled to the site of the blocked blood vessel in the brain to trap and remove the clot. The procedure must be done within six hours of having a stroke.

“I was awake, I could feel it,” Storch said. “I was not comfortable when it was in my brain. But I was in recovery four hours after the time of stroke. I was able to move, and it felt very good to have it done.

“My speech was better and I could move my hand. But they told me I shouldn’t move my leg.”

More than five months later, Storch is back to work at both the chamber and the legislature and for the most part physically recovered.

She sees the stroke as a needed wake-up call.

“I’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff,” she said. “If it is not within my control, I will not try to control it. I’m not 100 percent cured — I have little reminders now and then. I’m just trying to cherish time with my husband (Tom) and my family.

“I’m scared to exercise now. I’m only walking and I do squats, but I would like to get back into cross fit. I’m just nervous to do it right now.”

Dr. Angelo Georges, chief medical officer at Wheeling Hospital, said the typical causes for a stroke are the same as those for heart disease. These include having a family history of strokes, being diabetic, having hypertension and/or high cholesterol, or smoking.

The key is knowing these factors, he said.

“If your genetics and family history show a disposition for having strokes, you have to make sure your blood pressure isn’t just normal — it has to be under that,” he said. “If you have diabetes, your sugar has to be under borderline. Your cholesterol needs to be perfect. You also need to need to quit smoking.

“You can’t do anything about genetics.”

There’s also some confusion regarding blood pressure measurements, according to Georges.

For most years, the bottom number on blood pressure ratings — the diastolic pressure rating — was thought to be the important rating, and that it should be below 80. But now medical experts say the upper number, the systolic rating, also is a determinant for high blood pressure and possible stroke. The upper number should be below 120.

“Being in your early 30s is not too early to start worrying about your blood pressure,” Georges said.

“If you wait too long, it can lead to stroke — even if it’s not in the family history.

“And being overweight equals high blood pressure and cholesterol. Lose the weight, so you don’t develop these problems.”

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