All truck drivers know that safety is the number one priority out on the road, but the increasing danger of strokes to those who drive professionally creates another hazard they need to be aware of.
Every driver out there should know the signs of a stroke before it happens to keep themselves and others out of harm’s way.
Sometimes the common symptoms of stroke can be confused with the side effects that come with lack of sleep and long hours of concentration. Which means knowing what a stroke looks like is so important to those who drive long hours late at night like many truck drivers do.
The following will take you through the signs to look out for that may be result of a stroke and how to handle the situation as a truck driver.
You may first ask: what exactly is a stroke? A stroke is a “brain attack” that stops blood flow from occurring into the brain. This in turn will kill off any brain cells helping your mind operate making it difficult to perform tasks and abilities once seemingly simple and leave severe long term brain damage.
Here’s a list of the basic signs:
- Severe headache, especially if suddenly occurring without previous diagnosis.
- Difficulty walking, loss of balance and dizziness
- Lack of vision in one or both eyes
- Having a loss of comprehension and speaking ability
- Loosing sensation or feeling weakness in the face, arms, or legs on one side of the body
These could appear at any time and should be noted when first experiencing them. There is a chance that before an actual stroke occurs, smaller TIA’s or transient ischemic attacks could happen. TIA’s have been called the “warning strokes” or “mini-strokes” that have all the punch of a stroke in symptoms but don’t carry the same long lasting effect.
*Note: Women can also have additional signs such as: shortness of breath, nausea, chest pain and palpitations.
Dealing with TIA’s before the real thing happens, if they occur, is the most important first step. In treating these minor attacks one can prevent further permanent damage to the brain.
If caught within the first three hours that symptoms have shown up, medical professionals can administer a clot busting drug such as a tPA or tissue plasminogen activator, which is the only FDA approved treatment for a stroke.
When driving heavy motor vehicles its imperative you find a safe space to pull over and immediately call emergency services by dialing 9-1-1.
Brain damage as a truck driver can strip you of your full ability to operate a motor vehicle. Even recovery from a stroke can affect the reinstatement of a license.
An occupational therapist will be able to determine how extensive the damage was, if it was caught early enough, and if driving is possible again.
Driver rehabilitation specialists can analyze your driving skills after the stroke and will look into how well you can judge depth, function behind the wheel and the state of other cognitive abilities.
But even so signs of being unable to drive can show up later. Keep a close eye out for the following:
- Driving severely under or over the speed limit
- Finding yourself lost on how to operate a vehicle and asking others for help
- Not comprehending posted road signs
- Judging distance incorrectly
- Finding yourself becoming confused or frustrated easily and often
- Losing sense of direction
- Getting into accidents or close misses
- Drifting lanes, especially at night
In the end there are several factors that contribute to a stroke that are unavoidable such as age, gender, race and family history. But a few simple changes in blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and tobacco/alcohol use could end up saving more than just your career as a truck driver.
Oscar King is a trucker with a decade of experience who spends his down time keeping himself fit and healthy, and writing health articles for his fellow truckers. He recommends to his friends that when they need a routine physical for recertification to use DriverPhysicals.com. You can follow him on his Google+ for additional examples of his work.