Stroke Recovery Association of BC

Recovering from a Stroke

Understanding Stroke

What is a Stroke?

A stroke is a brain injury caused by:

  • Blood flow to the brain being blocked OR
  • Bleeding in the brain.

When blood stops getting to your brain, the brain cells don’t get the oxygen they need. Bleeding in the brain also damages brain cells.

Blockages and bleeding cause brain cells to stop working properly or to die.

The Human Brain

The brain is the most complicated organ in your body. It is a network of special cells that are constantly sending signals and messages from one part to another. It controls everything you do. It is responsible for your movements and helps you to walk and to keep your balance. It makes sure that you know where you are going, and that you don’t get lost. It controls memory and awareness. It helps you to recognize and remember things, like who the members of your family are. It controls your senses, so you can hear and understand what others are saying to you. It helps you to see what is around you and to understand what you see. It controls your personality and how you behave. All of your thoughts, feelings and emotions come from your brain. It helps you to make decisions. It governs communication including your speech, reading and writing. It even controls life support systems, like breathing and eating.

Your brain is divided into two halves called the right and left hemispheres and four different areas called lobes. Each of these parts is in charge of a different part of your functioning. Having a stroke can affect you in many different ways. It all depends on:

  1. Which part of your brain is damaged
  2. How serious the damage is

Effects of a Stroke

Effects of a stroke can include the following. Remember that every stroke and every person is different.

Physical Effects

  • Part or all of one side of the body is paralyzed
  • Loss of feeling or numbness in part or all of one side of the body
  • Loss of awareness of part or all of one side of the body
  • Problems with movement, which can affect walking, sitting, bathing, using the toilet, dressing etc.
  • Pain
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of Vision

Cognitive Effects

These effects involve mental functions – that is things like thinking, understanding and learning:

  • Loss of ability to recognize familiar objects or understand their use
  • Difficulty judging distances, shapes and directions
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Difficulty learning new information
  • Slow, cautious behavior
  • Problems planning, organizing and starting tasks
  • Problems recognizing current abilities and limitations
  • Problems with body image

Communication Effects

  • Inability to use or understand words (known as aphasia)
  • Loss of writing abilities
  • Slurred speech
  • Difficulty in absorbing information

Emotional Effects

  • Loss of emotional control (e.g. crying easily – sometimes for no apparent reason)
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Loss of self esteem

Personal and Social Effects

  • Awkwardness
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Isolation
  • Family breakdowns
  • Loss of privacy
  • Change in roles
  • Challenges with relationships
  • Work and career issues
  • Financial concerns