Disclaimer: This isn't my story. This is Amy's story. I was fortunate to be her caregiver, and now her friend. I have Amy's permission to share her story because stroke awareness is so very important.
If you have seen the movie "Groundhog Day", you know that Bill Murray gets endless attempts to live the same day over and over again, until he gets it right. Many of us in healthcare wish we got "do-overs" when we think we could have diagnosed a problem sooner, or treated it differently. But we don't. On Groundhog Day 2006, things went exactly right on the first try...
Amy's story could have gone so differently. It could have been the story of a young mother who suffered a debilitating stroke, unable to use one side of her body and unable to speak. Perhaps with extensive physical and speech therapy, her condition would have improved. It would have been a long time, if ever, before Amy returned to work. Amy's husband Chuck would have been supporting her recovery and parenting their two young sons.
Instead, thanks to an astute coworker, educated EMS providers, and a push to give tissue plasminogen activator ("tPA" or the "Clot buster") to stroke patients, Amy's story is very different. Amy was working at a local school when she developed the weakness and inability to speak clearly. Her colleague recognized the signs and called 9-1-1. EMS providers rushed her to the Emergency Department with extensive detail about her "time last known normal" and her symptoms. In the Emergency Department, staff acted quickly to perform the necessary tests and begin tPA administration. This is when I met Amy, as I helped to support the staff in giving the tPA. This was our second time ever administering it, and frankly, tPA scared us. The concerning side effect is bleeding, especially in the brain, but without it the recovery prospects may be dismal.
Within hours, Amy was moving both arms and legs...soon she was able to begin speaking. I will never forget her telling me how bothersome the bright lights had been, and how loudly everyone spoke to her because she couldn't talk back. Amy left the hospital with minimal disability. She underwent follow up care and management of her stroke risk factors, but ten years later she is a Mom of two wonderful young men, who now travels the country as a consultant to train teachers.
Simply because someone recognized the signs of stroke and acted "FAST", Amy has been able to impact countless others.
- How many swim meets has she attended in ten years, cheering on her sons?
- How many teachers has she impacted with her training?
- How many people were able to recognize the signs of a stroke in someone else because they heard Amy's story?
Ten years later, stroke care has been refined and tPA use, as well as advanced neurological intervention, are much more widespread. The key is for stroke patients to get to the hospital as soon as possible.
So what can you do? Don't ignore the warning signs of stroke. Even if you aren't sure, call 9-1-1 and get checked out. Remember to "Act FAST". The most beneficial stroke care is time sensitive.
Have more questions? Check out the Stroke Association or the American Heart Association.