DEAR ABBY: I'm writing this because I hope you will tell your readers to learn the signs of a stroke. I wish I had known.
I was visiting my grandma seven years ago. During dinner she had a stroke. I knew something was wrong, but wasn't sure what it was. My sister and I asked her if she wanted to go to the hospital, but she said no. We respected her wishes and didn't insist. We finally took her two days later.
Abby, my grandmother never spoke again. She spent her last seven years aware of what she wanted to say, but unable to say it. The guilt I carry is hard to live with.
Please tell your readers to make sure they know the signs of a stroke and to remember that while most people don't want to go to the hospital, the first three hours after a stroke are critical. If you suspect that your loved one is having a stroke, get that person to a hospital fast, even if they don't want to go! You can't take back the damage a stroke causes.
My grandmother is gone now and I miss her terribly. She was a loving grandparent, and I hope she'll forgive me. -- MISSING HER IN UTAH
DEAR MISSING HER: What happened to your grandmother was tragic, but you were no more at fault than the millions of others who are also unaware of the signs of stroke. In your grandmother's memory, I'll describe them.
The most common stroke symptoms are: sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg -- especially on one side of the body. 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.
Other important but common symptoms include: sudden nausea, fever and vomiting -- distinguished from a viral illness by the speed of onset (minutes or hours versus several days). And brief loss of consciousness such as fainting or convulsions.
If you see or have any of these symptoms, call 911! Every minute counts, and treatment can be more effective if it's given quickly.
DEAR ABBY: My 20-year-old goddaughter is pregnant. She is beautiful, smart and talented. Her boyfriend is wonderful to her and they are very happy together. My problem is people who frown on her happiness. I am regularly asked if I'm disappointed in her. My response is usually: "It's unexpected, but we will make the best of it. She and her boyfriend both work and have a great support network and a huge family."
I think it's rude of people to assume that this is bad news. How do I respond to those who are so oblivious? -- OFFENDED AUNT IN SCRANTON, PA.
DEAR OFFENDED: The way you are answering them is appropriate, positive and polite. You need no help from me.
TO MY ASIAN READERS: This is the Year of the Dragon, a symbol of power and good fortune. Those born in the Year of the Dragon are confident, brave and fearless. A symbol of strength in Asian culture, the dragon once symbolized the emperor of China. I wish a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year to all of you.
For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order, "How to Be Popular." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.