Cerebrovascular accident (CVA) commonly known as stroke, is a sudden interruption of oxygenated blood to the brain, resulting in brain cell death.21 Ischemic strokes account for 85% of all strokes, resulting from a blocked artery insufficiently supplying the brain with necessary oxygen and nutrients. Hemorrhagic strokes, responsible for 15% of strokes, occur from ruptured blood vessels leaking blood in or around surrounding areas of the brain.22 The cells that die can leave a woman with the inability to speak, feel, think, move or even recognize family and friends. It is estimated that two-thirds of the survivors have to pursue rehabilitative measures in order to regain abilities, learn how to compensate for those lost and develop new strengths.
The effects from a stroke are determined by the location of damage within the brain (Figure 3). When cell death occurs in the cerebellum (the lower back portion of the brain), coordination, movement, reflexes and balance are affected. Whereas, with damage to the frontal lobe and left side of the brain, a woman would be unable to articulate speech even though understanding what was being communicated and knowing what she desired to say. With damage to the left temporal lobe, comprehension of language would be impossible, even though she would be able to articulate words. To better understand the effects of a stroke, it is important to understand the location of damage in the brain. When one hemisphere of the brain suffers from a stroke, consequently, the opposite side of the body’s functioning becomes impaired. When a stroke occurs in the right hemisphere of the brain, vision may be impaired in both eyes, and difficulty can occur in lifting the left arm or smiling from the left side of the mouth.
Figure 3. Location of Damage Within the Brain.
A stroke, depending on the location of brain damage, can produce weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, muscle spasticity, difficulty in coordinating movement, and trouble swallowing. If the stroke occurs in the left side of the brain, the right side of the body will be affected, and vice versa. Numbness, ongoing aches and pain and sensory changes may be produced. Difficulties can occur in expressing oneself in words as well as understanding speech. Memory loss, impaired thinking, disorientation, inability to complete tasks along with denial of disabilities are cognitive problems, if left untreated, can potentially undermine any rehabilitation.23