Women's early symptom experience of stroke : a narrative study
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The purpose of this study was to gain understanding of the early symptom experience of ischemic stroke in women. This is the only study of which the researcher is aware in which narrative inquiry was used to examine the period of time from symptom onset until emergency department arrival in women. Data collection was achieved by in-depth interviews during which participants’ stories of stroke were elicited. Individual narrative accounts were created and analyzed using within and across case techniques. The participants were nine women ranging in age from 24-86 years (average age 53). Four participants were Caucasian, three were Hispanic, one was African American and one woman was of mixed race. The participants experienced the onset of stroke as the inability to carry out accustomed activities in usual ways. There was a tendency to objectify the body. Only two participants considered stroke as a possible cause for their symptoms, and the other women attributed symptoms everyday bodily experiences and/or other health conditions. Most participants did not perceive themselves at risk for stroke although all but one woman had risk factors. The participants displayed a variety of responses to symptoms, including trying to continue with usual activities and seeking help as well as deciding not to tell anyone about their symptoms. Symptom response was related to women’s evaluation of and emotional response to symptoms. The actions taken by the participants in response to symptoms were informed by the meaning of the symptoms, and meaning was formed within the context of each woman’s life situation. Few women made the decision to seek medical care on their own, and in every case family members or co-workers were reported to take an active role in getting the participant to the hospital. Some family members were reported to consult with one another before making the decision to call EMS or transporting the participant to the emergency department. Consistent with what was expected from extant research the majority of the participants did not arrive at the hospital in time to be offered treatment with t-PA. Recommendations for future research, stroke education and practice were discussed.