Even some famous authors get medical details wrong.
In a New York Times bestselling novel, the author presented his main character’s mother with a stroke. Almost all the details were accurate, except for the origin of the blood clot in the mother’s leg. This is where the author needed more research and clarification.
If the blood clot broke loose from the arteries of the leg, it travels to the toes and become lodged in the tiny capillary vessels, never reaching the brain.
If the blood clot broke loose from the veins of the leg, it travels to the heart, out to the lungs and becomes lodged. This obstruction can be fatal and is called a pulmonary embolism, not a stroke.
Therefore, when giving your characters a stroke, let’s get the details right by asking the following questions:
What kind of stroke does the character have?
There are two types:
Ischemic Stroke occurs when blood vessels in the brain become blocked by a moving obstruction that has traveled to the brain and lodged within the vessels, cutting off oxygen supply. These moving obstructions or emboli and most often come from the heart or carotid arteries.
Hemorrhagic Stroke occurs when excessive bleeding in the brain, either from a ruptured blood vessel or from trauma, places pressure on the brain tissue. This cuts off the oxygen supply in that area.
There are two types of hemorrhagic stroke:
Intracerebral – located inside the brain
Subarachnoid – located outside the brain
What are the characters risk factors for a stroke?
Characters need to exhibit a pre-existing condition that contributes to a stroke. Such as:
High blood pressure
What are the characters symptoms?
Time to call 911
Strokes on the left side of the brain will contribute to symptoms on the right side of the body and vice versa. If the stroke affects the cerebellum or brain stem, then symptoms can affect both sides of the body.
What is the characters treatment?
Ischemic Stroke: t-PA therapy is provided by licensed medical professionals and needs to be administered within three hours of onset symptoms.
Hemorrhagic Stroke: Blood thinner meds are halted and blood pressure meds are administered to decrease bleeding.
What types of medical procedures are provided for a character experiencing a stroke?
Ultrasound of the carotid arteries may be performed to determine blockage in the arteries carrying blood to the brain.
CT or MRI scan of the brain to identify the cause and location of the stroke
For an Ischemic stroke, an angioplasty or endarterectomy is performed to open the narrowed channel and provide blood flow to the brain again.
For Hemorrhagic stroke, a procedure may be performed to place a coil, clip or glue in the affected area to try and stop the bleeding.
Follow these tips and you’ll be thinking FAST in no time!
Shannon Moore Redmon writes romantic suspense stories, to entertain and share the gospel truth of Jesus Christ. Her stories dive into the healthcare environment where Shannon holds over twenty years of experience as a Registered Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. Her extensive work experience includes Radiology, Obstetrics/Gynecology and Vascular Surgery.
As the former Education Manager for GE Healthcare, she developed her medical professional network across the country. Today, Shannon teaches ultrasound at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College and utilizes many resources to provide accurate healthcare research for authors requesting her services.
She is a member of the ACFW and Blue Ridge Mountain Writer’s Group. Shannon is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of the Steve Laube Agency. She lives and drinks too much coffee in North Carolina with her husband, two boys and her white foo-foo dog, Sophie.