While a stroke is not always fatal, it can often result in long-lasting, debilitating effects. Being a truck driver also has other hurtles to overcome even if the stroke mild with no log lasting effects. Things like waiting periods and medical clearance requirements can make it difficult to make a living even when treating providers feel a driver can return to driving. So what do drives need to know?
What is a stroke?
A stroke or occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happen, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs.
When brain cells die during a stroke, abilities controlled by that area of the brain are lost. These abilities include speech, movement and memory. How a stroke patient is affected depends on where the stroke occurs in the brain and how much the brain is damaged.
Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg — especially on one side of the body are common stroke symptoms seen in both men and women:
- Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
- Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
- Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
- Sudden severe headache with no known cause
Women may report unique stroke symptoms:
- sudden face and limb pain
- sudden hiccups
- sudden nausea
- sudden general weakness
- sudden chest pain
- sudden shortness of breath
- sudden palpitations
Call 9-1-1 immediately if you have any of these symptoms
Every minute counts for stroke patients and acting F.A.S.T. can lead patients to the stroke treatments they desperately need. The most effective stroke treatments are only available if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within the first three hours of the first symptoms. Actually, many Americans are not aware that stroke patients may not be eligible for stroke treatments if they arrive at the hospital after the three-hour window.
If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T. and do this simple test:
F—FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A—ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T—TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
NOTE THE TIME WHEN ANY SYMPTOMS FIRST APPEAR. If given within three hours of the first symptom, there is an FDA-approved clot-buster medication that may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke.
Learn as many stroke symptoms as possible so you can recognize stroke as FAST as possible.
“Understanding the warning signs is important because there are treatments we can give for stroke. If you understand the warning signs and get to the hospital quickly we can even possibly reverse the stroke itself,” says Dr. Dawn Kleindorfer, assistant professor of neurology at University of Cincinnati School of Medicine.
*Information taken from Stroke.org.
Can a driver prevent a stroke?
Drivers that pay attention to their health will always be less likely to have a stroke. The best way to help prevent a stroke is to eat a healthy diet, exercises regularly, and avoid smoking and drinking too much alcohol. These lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of problems that will increase your risk of having a stroke. These risk factors are divided into two major types, those that are controllable (meaning you can improve and manage them) and those that are uncontrollable (they are what they are).
Controllable Risk Factors:
- High Blood Pressure
- Atrial Fibrillation
- High Cholesterol
- Circulation Problems
- Tobacco Use and Smoking
- Alcohol Use
- Physical Inactivity
Uncontrollable Risk Factors:
- Family History
- Previous Stroke or TIA
- Fibromuscular Dysplasia
- Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO or Hole in the Heart)
FMCSA Regulations Relating to Stroke
New Exam Advised Prior to RTW? Yes
Waiting Period: This can vary based on whether or not the driver suffers a seizure or not as a result of the stroke. If they do not, there is a one (1) year waiting period. If they do, there is a five (5) year waiting period without the need of taking any anti-seizure medication. Seizure risk is determined by the part of the brain that is affected.
Medical Clearance: This is a must! The driver must be cleared by a neurologist (not their PCP), have a neuro eye examination and psychological testing prior to certification. This clearance is required annually! It must be done to be medically certified.
Required Medical Testing: There is no required testing for the stroke, but there may be testing for one of the potential treatments. In the event that the driver is taking an anticoagulant (a blood thinner), based on the type of medication that is prescribed, you may need an INR (a blood test to see if the anticoagulant medication is at a stable level). The driver should consult with their prescribing physician, or even ask the medical examiner themselves if this test is required.
Certification Interval: If the driver has finished the required waiting period and is not on anti-seizure mediation to control seizures, and satisfied the medical clearance requirement, they may be certified for 1 year.
Planning for a return to work: What should drivers do?
First and foremost, make sure you follow through on all doctor’s visits and be sure to take medications and complete physical therapy if it was prescribed. Not doing so will jeopardize your being medically certified at the time of your exam. There may even be a requirement to go in for an additional visit with a specialist should you have discontinued care prematurely which as you know can take a while.
Second, start preparing for your return to work beginning at three (3) months out (at the end of your waiting period) so that you give yourself time to track down and obtain medical clearances from all of your treating providers. If any testing is required be sure to have it completed and bring in the results to the medical examiner for their review.
Should you follow through with the above recommendations, and you do not suffer any additional medical problems, you should be able to avoid a delay in certification.
Truck drivers are notorious for not taking good care of themselves. The long hours away from home, poor eating habits and irregular sleep patterns can take its toll on a driver. That said, many of the risk factors that were listed are modifiable. That means they are under the drives control! Better eating habits, controlling your weight and taking your medications when needed will go a long way in helping a driver to control the controllables and will therefore lead to a significant reduction in chance of suffering a stroke!