Trailer: Becoming Cary Grant by Mark Kidel
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On the news of his death, The New York Times referred to the star as “devastatingly handsome” before going on to list his roles in the 72 films he appeared in during his lifetime. Reports at the time also addressed the star’s death, which occurred due to a “massive stroke”. The NHS describes a stroke as a “serious life-threatening medical condition” that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off.
Back in 1986 the Quad-City Times reported that the actor’s stroke occurred shortly before he was meant to make an appearance at a fundraising event in Iowa, USA.
Taken immediately to St Luke’s Hospital, the star’s condition was described as “comatose” and around nine o’clock that evening the star was pronounced dead.
Dr James Gilson, a cardiologist who worked at the hospital, reportedly commented: “Had Grant been brought to the hospital earlier, nothing could have been done.
“The only thing unusual about this case was that the man’s name was Cary Grant.”
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Rumours spread that the star began to feel ill shortly before his performance at a charity event, but as he didn’t want to let the charity down, he did not cancel his appearance.
“He was chipper, in fact. He made several changes of the microphones, shifted the stool where he was sitting and made some rearrangements for the screening of some of his old film clips,” Lois Jecklin, director of Visiting Artists, which sponsored Grant’s appearance, said of the event.
It was shortly after rehearsals that Grant’s health started to dwindle. Asking for the support of his wife Barbara Harris, who worked as an actress, and the development of a cough.
Despite these warning signs, Dr Gilson shared that the stroke which killed the star was “unpredictable” as he had never suffered from any other heart issues.
He said: “His heart was not a problem, now or in the past. A stroke is unpredictable and not uncommon in his age group.”
The NHS explain that there are two main causes of stroke:
- Ischaemic – where the blood supply is stopped because of a blood clot, accounting for 85 percent of all cases
- Haemorrhagic – where a weakened blood vessel supplying the brain bursts.
Despite the differences, symptoms are always pretty much the same, and can be remembered with the word FAST. These stand for:
- Face – the face may have dropped on one side, the person may not be able to smile, or their mouth or eye may have dropped.
- Arms – the person with suspected stroke may not be able to lift both arms and keep them there because of weakness or numbness in one arm.
- Speech – their speech may be slurred or garbled, or the person may not be able to talk at all despite appearing to be awake; they may also have problems understanding what you’re saying to them.
- Time – it’s time to dial 999 immediately if you see any of these signs or symptoms.
There is also a condition known as a transient ischaemic attack (TIA), where the blood supply to the brain is temporarily interrupted. Otherwise known as a mini-stroke, this condition can last up to 24 hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that a stroke can strike at any age, but there are certain things that increase an individual’s risk, some which are controllable and others that are not.
While family history or age are not controlled, individuals can lower their risk of having a stroke by monitoring the following:
- Blood pressure
- Cholesterol levels
- Heart disease.
Despite Grant’s stroke being called “unpredictable” back in the 1950s, the star became known for experimenting heavily with drugs, specifically LSD. A decade before the hallucinogenic became more popular, the actor was a patient of Dr Mortimer Hartman, who reportedly supported Grant through 100 sessions of LSD over several years.
Claiming that the drug helped to give him a “rebirth” after a traumatic childhood and various failed relationships, it is possible that the years he spent using the drug put him at risk of stroke.
Although this cannot be proven, there is research to show that drug abuse carries a high risk of blood clotting, which is one of the main causes of stroke. Due to these risk factors, the CDC states that adopting healthy behaviours can lower your risk of stroke.
Once in hospital, stroke patients are usually given “clot-busting medication” known as thrombolysis. This aims to restore blood flow to the brain.
In some cases, surgical procedures may be required to remove blood clots. Surgery may also be required to treat brain swelling and reduce the risk of further bleeding if this was the cause of the stroke.
Regular brain scans will also be done in order to monitor how effectively treatment is going. In some cases, if treatment is successful, individuals are left with long-term problems due to the damage in their brain. This could mean that they require support to look after themselves or partake in everyday activities.
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