14-year-old recognises stroke in mother after recalling school lesson

Would you recognise whether your mum was having a stroke?

We all learn things at school, but rarely are the lessons as important as 14-year-old Katie Murphy’s. When her mother was showing the signs of a debilitating condition known as a stroke she was able to put some of that theory into practice.

Katie recognised something was wrong when her mother’s speech suddenly became confused. On top of this Katie’s mum, Christa, was struggling to brush her teeth. Vitally, the 14-year-old correctly recognised this as out of character. Something was seriously wrong. Being aware of the symptoms of a stroke allowed Katie to act appropriately, call an ambulance and most importantly save her mum.

Katie recalled the story her science teacher told, explaining which signs and symptoms to look out for in patients suffering from a stroke.

It is fundamental for stroke victims to be diagnosed and treated quickly. Time is not something that patients have on their side. Every second without the right intervention results in the death of brain cells. These are cells that will not regenerate or grow back, leaving people with varying levels of disability.

If this tale has taught us anything, it should be that awareness of common conditions can have a massive positive result on people’s lives.

Trusted Education: Would you be able to spot a stroke?

A stroke is a condition characterised by sudden brain damage.  There are two different types of strokes, and they are caused in different ways.  An ischaemic stroke is caused by a blood clot blocking one of the arteries from carrying oxygen to the brain. A haemorrhagic stroke is commonly known as a “bleed on the brain”. They are caused when a blood vessel in the brain bursts, bleeding into the surrounding brain tissue.   Ischaemic strokes are the most common type, but haemorrhagic strokes are responsible for more deaths.


To understand the symptoms of a stroke we need to know a couple of things. Firstly, it is important to appreciate that our brains are divided into specific areas, or lobes, which control different functions.  Despite our individuality, these are in the same locations for everyone, so you can ignore what your mum has told you about being special! Secondly, we need to know that damage to these areas will cause a loss of function or “deficit”.

Deficits are fundamental in understanding the symptoms of a stroke. As we have read in Katie’s difficult situation, she noticed a loss of normal speech and a loss of the ability to brush her teeth. These fit into the NHS’s “FAST” campaign, which covers the most common deficits.

  • Face – facial droop, noticed most when the patient is trying to express himself
  • Arms – weakness or loss of sensation in one arm
  • Speech – loss of being able to say or understand words
  • Time – time to act, call 999

However, it is important to remember that these are not the only symptoms you may see.

How to reduce your risk

There are several things you can do to lower your risk of having a stroke. The most important to consider are lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as reducing your risk of diabetes. This can all be done with a few lifestyle modifications including eating healthily, stopping smoking, reducing alcohol intake and exercising.

So next time you’re enjoying that beer and pub lunch, don’t assume that person falling over at the bar, slurring his words has had just one too many. Maybe it’s something more serious.


At Trusted Medicine we are improving Public Health through education. We love what we do, but we need your help. Please share our work, help us reach more people.


Any opinions above are the author’s alone and may not represent those of his/her affiliations. Any comment is based on the best available evidence at the time of writing.  All data is based on externally validated studies unless expressed otherwise. Novel data is representative of the sample surveyed. An online recommendation is no substitute for seeing your own doctor and should not be taken as medical advice. Article edited for publication by Dr Hannah Arnstein

Images courtesy of pixabay

Sources and Further Reading



About willfry21 (2 Articles)
Medical Student at Norwich Medical School

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