Lauren Bacall is one of our cultural icons. She defined, visually, a kind of ineffable grace and sophistication. In one sense, she was the natural counterpart to Katherine Hepburn.
I could write a lot about Mme Bacall, but I think there’s something we can take from her tragic passing. Something that’s easy to miss right now, especially with the shocking death of Robin Williams. Williams’s death — and the form that passing took — was so unexpected, and so horrifying, that it has eclipsed Bacall’s death entirely.
And that’s unfortunate, because there’s a lesson as important to be taken away from the tragic passing of Mme Bacall.
Lauren Bacall died of a stroke, at the age of 89.
And… when you read that, it’s easy — sadly — to dismiss it. She was 89. Naturally, she was at the end of a long and fulfilling life, and it’s as natural that she passed from a stroke. That happens later in life.
Except it doesn’t. Anyone can have a stroke.
A stroke may be caused by genetic factors. It may be caused by a hard hit on a football field. Take the case of 17 year old High School Senior Andre Maloney, a standout football star in Kansas City, who had already been recruited by the University of Kansas. A star athlete moving into his prime.
Until he collapsed on the sidelines during a football game.
Over the course of the next few days, Maloney was treated, but tragically he couldn’t be saved. A blood clot had entered his brain through a Patent Foramen Ovale, or PFO — a literal hole in his heart.
A hole, I would add, that one in five Americans have. Because we’re all born with a PFO. It’s how we can survive in the womb without, you know, being able to breathe. But 20% of all Americans (I don’t have statistics for the rest of the planet) don’t have these PFOs close.
And, should blood clots form in your body, they can reach the lungs — causing what’s called a pulmonary embolism. Which itself is no picnic, mind. But if you have a PFO, it can also pass through and hit your brain.
That happened to Andre Maloney. Did he get a clot from a hit on the field? Who knows. But he got one. And he died. 17 years old, in excellent health, and a stroke victim.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Because strokes can be treated incredibly effectively, if they are treated quickly.
That picture above is the FAST protocol. It’s a fast way to check if a friend or loved one might be suffering a stroke. It’s simple, and it’s fast. And if you get them to a hospital quickly, there are incredibly effective treatments. There is a medication emergency rooms have — a clotbuster — that can massively improve a stroke victim’s recovery and survival rate. But with a stroke every second counts. Every second is brain cells.
It goes beyond even that, by the way. In a lot of cases, a stroke that happens due to PFO will have precursors — sharp leg pains where clotting may be happening. Shortness of breath from a pulmonary embolism. If things seem odd, get them checked out.
Please. For your loved ones. For yourself. For Lauren Bacall, who was class and grace and sophistication personified… and for Andre Maloney… learn the warning signs for Stroke, and if you see them — or have them — call 911. Immediately. Don’t stop to pass Go. Be aware.
And be safe.