Credit: Image courtesy of Blausen.com

I am sure you have heard and sung the carefree little camp song that went something like this: “Row, row, row your boat/Gently down the stream/Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily/Life is just a dream.” I would like to borrow that tune and add my words to it: “Flow, flow, flow your blood/Gently like a stream/If a clot forms causing the blood to stop/ Get fast as you can to a ‘clot busting team.’”

In other words, make sure that if you are experiencing symptoms of an early heart attack or stroke, you are able to get to a hospital where there is a clot-busting team on staff 24 hours a day. It is extremely important that a clot be busted within a three-hour window. At Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn, this team is available and waiting to serve you.

When any organ such as the heart or brain is deprived of its oxygenated blood supply because of a clot, the functioning cells of that organ die quickly. When the heart is involved, it is referred to as a heart attack and with the brain, a stroke.

Over the years, scientists have developed new methods to dissolve a newly formed clot. The two clot busters presently being used are known as tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA and streptokinase, or SK. These two agents must be given within three hours of a heart attack or as soon as a heart attack is suspected. This procedure is now being used for early stroke victims. When symptoms occur, it is no time for you to lie down and wait until you feel better. It may be too late to be able to use these clot-busting medications.

Early signs of a heart attack are as follows:

• Chest discomfort.

• Back discomfort.

• Chest pain radiating to the left elbow and arm.

• Shortness of breath.

• An urge to move the bowels.

• Excess sweating.

• Nausea and often vomiting.

• Light headedness.

• Unexplained, overwhelming fatigue.

Early signs of a stroke include the following:

• Visual disturbance, such as loss of visual fields with blurring.

• Numbness of arms or legs with weakness.

• Inability to swallow or difficulty swallowing.

• Slurred speech.

• Head spinning with dizziness.

• Fainting or loss of consciousness.

I would suggest that you become aware of the medical institutions in your neighborhood that offer 24-hour clot-busting teams to ensure the least damage to your brain or heart that has been deprived of its blood supply because of an early clot.