Biden's recovery shows importance of known stroke signs

May 18, 2010 4:18:26 PM PDT
"Good to be be going home," remarked Delaware attorney general Beau Biden, as he left Jefferson University Hospital for Neuroscience, one week after he was admitted there following a mild stroke.

Carrying his four year old son Hunter through the rain, Beau Biden says it's good to be going home.

A week ago, he was rushed to the hospital after doctors say he suffered a mild stroke. The quick response is what many say lead to his speedy recovery.

54-year-old Charlene Crabbe, also a stroke survivor, knows all to well how a quick response can make a huge difference.

"Oh my gosh, I just feel so blessed," she says.

Blessed because she recognized the symptoms of stroke and, like the Bidens took action. She says one night at 2 AM her face and left arm got tingly then -

"My arm felt real heavy, just hung down and I could barely pick it up," she remembers.

Next, he speech began to slur, and she told her husband to take her to the emergency room.

"If she had gone back to sleep and awakened 3 to 4 hours later, we would not be having this story," says Dr. George Newman, a neurologist at Einstein Medical Center.

"Even if the symptoms completely go away in the person you are with, pick up the phone, and call 911," says Dr. Newman.

Charlene knew the symptoms of stroke very well - 2 of her sisters had strokes in their 30s, and a third had a heart attack. Her family has a genetic disorder which causes blood to clot too readily. A brother has also been diagnosed with the disorder, and is taking medication.

Charlene says her children plan to be tested for the disorder as well.

Dr. Newman says patients like Charlene who get to the hospital and are given the clot-busting medication TPA within four and half hours of symptoms have the best chance for surviving a stroke without any major problems.

"It's probably about half the people who receive TPA don't even need to go to therapy," says Dr. Newman.

Beau Biden's doctors report he has NO lasting ill effects.

Neither does Charlene. She now tells others -

"Pay attention to the warning signs because just a few hours can make a big difference if you get to the hospital."

Dr. Newman says one of the biggest risk factors for stroke is smoking, and that doesn't just apply to men.

"The rate at which women have either heart attacks or strokes has gradually increased over time as their cigarette smoking has increased over time," he says.

And he add, "They are in no way safe or protected."

Dr. Newman says cigarette smoking not only leads to hardening of the arteries, but it activates the clotting of the blood which can lead to a stroke.

To learn more about the symptoms of stroke, go to How to recognize a stroke.