Surviving and Thriving Post-Stroke

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Kirk Disrude began his morning like any other until he began experiencing strange symptoms.

“It just felt like a rubber band snapped in my head and I just instantly, I fell down,” the high school teacher says.

Kirk’s wife, Beth, rushed him to Advocate Condell Medical Center where doctors determined Kirk suffered a stroke. The cause of Kirk’s stroke was  a bit unique as it was the result of a hole in his heart coupled with an atrial septal aneurism. For most people, however, Dr. Raymond Chow of Advocate Condell says hypertension, an irregular heartbeat, inactivity, smoking, and drinking all raise the risk factor when it comes to strokes.  While not everyone presents warning signs, Dr. Chow says it’s important to call 9-1-1 if you begin to experience the following symptoms:

  • Weakness/numbness on one side of the body
  • Sudden loss of vision or speech function
  • Any loss of the body’s neurological function

The good news is there are things you can do to lessen your risk. Dr. Chow urges individuals to give up smoking and excessive drinking, exercise and manage any heart conditions and blood pressure.

“A small drop in blood pressure can reduce your risk for stroke  up to 40 percent sometimes,” he says.

Kirk committed fully to rehabilitation post-stroke and just eight months later Kirk crossed the finish line for the Chicago marathon with Beth at his side. Today, he’s made it his mission to share what he’s learned with a younger generation: his students at Maine East High School. Kirk developed a semester-long project in which his students research the top five causes of death in the United States and then propose solutions.

“I felt I owed it to my students to have them aware of these things,” Kirk says. “It’s the coolest thing to stand there and watch. Some of their solutions – you just getting a feeling of oh my gosh! They get it. They see it.”

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