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By Emma Avila, firstname.lastname@example.org, writer for IU Health’s Indianapolis Suburban Region
When Ron Horton began experiencing a stroke, the quick response of his wife and the team at IU Health North saved his life.
Ron Horton was dealing with a separate health issue when his stroke symptoms started. He and his wife of 39 years, Mary, were on their way to their Carmel home earlier this year after the team at IU Health University Hospital put a feeding tube in his stomach.
Ron’s care team had recently discovered he had throat cancer and were concerned he couldn’t consume enough food. The feeding tube was supposed to help.
On the drive home from downtown, Mary noticed Ron, 74, seemed confused. He mentioned they should check out the car, even though they were already in it and it was functioning fine.
Mary thought the comment was strange, but when Ron’s confusion worsened after they got home, she knew he needed medical help.
“I knew something was weird. I may not have known it was a stroke, but I knew something was going on,” Mary said.
She immediately drove him to the Emergency department at IU Health North, which is about 10 minutes from their home. When they arrived, Ron’s confusion worsened.
“I couldn’t complete sentences and was talking nonsense,” Ron said. “I was convinced Mary and all the people around me were aliens.”
After immediate imaging, the Emergency department team determined Ron was having a stroke.
Immediate treatment is key
A stroke occurs when a blood clot or broken blood vessel interrupts the blood flow to the brain. The patient begins to lose brain cells and may experience permanent loss of cognitive and physical function. Strokes can be fatal.
Immediate treatment by physicians can greatly improve the chance of survival and improved health following a stroke.
“Based on his symptoms, his National Institute of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score of four, and no good reason to exclude him from treatment, Mr. Horton was given the IV thrombolytic Tenecteplase,” explained Susanne Crotty, IU Health North’s stroke and quality coordinator. “This is a “clot-busting” medication, which these kinds of medications are the recommended treatment for acute ischemic stroke. He received this medication 47 minutes after he arrived, which is faster than our goal.”
A stroke is an emergency, so you should call 911 if you experience, or see a loved one experiencing, any stroke symptoms.
“Once a stroke begins, you have limited time to get the most helpful treatments,” Crotty said. “It is important to remember the time of the first symptom because some treatment options are only available within one to four and a half hours of the start of symptoms. Other treatment options can be available up to 24 hours after symptoms first start. Sometimes symptoms may go away, but a person should still seek medical attention.”
For Ron, his wife’s quick actions potentially saved his life.
“I think from the time we left downtown to when we were at the emergency room, it was an hour and a half to two hours,” Mary recalled. That put Ron within the time window to receive the Tenecteplase.
“Mr. Horton had an MRI of his brain done during his stay to evaluate for any ischemic damage, and the MRI did show that he had a stroke affecting his frontal lobe, which would explain the symptoms he came to the Emergency Department with,” Crotty said. “If he had not received Tenecteplase, he could have had long term effects from his stroke.”
On the road to recovery
According to Mary, Ron began recovering almost immediately after treatment, though he did have a few lingering symptoms. He stayed at IU Health North for a few days so his care team could keep an eye on him.
“By the second full day, he started coming back around. He was pretty calm and starting to understand. It did take a couple of days to understand the whole alien thing,” Mary said. “His speech took a little bit longer. It took three or four days before he could answer the basic questions.”
“I couldn’t do math. I didn’t know who the president was. I was in a bad way for a while. It took several weeks before the full memory came back,” Ron added.
After four or five days, Ron was released from the hospital to continue his recovery at home.
“Reflecting on the entire experience, Mary and I want to thank the ER and ICU staff, along with the specialists involved in my care, for truly saving my life,” he said.
Now, he has fully recovered from his stroke and is focusing his energy on other health conditions.
He is scheduled for a scan at the IU Health Joe & Shelly Schwarz Cancer Center in Carmel in July to confirm that his throat cancer is gone. He also plans to return to IU Health North later this year for a heart procedure.
Know the signs of a stroke
May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Ron and Mary share their story in hopes that it will educate others on the signs of a stroke and to seek immediate treatment.
“When you think about the symptoms of a stroke, think ‘sudden.’ The warning signs and symptoms of a stroke can happen very suddenly,” Clotty explained. “A person may have sudden weakness or numbness of their face, arm, or leg on one side of their body. They may have sudden trouble speaking or finding words, or sudden trouble seeing in one or both of their eyes. A person may also experience sudden trouble walking or loss of balance or coordination.”
If someone experiences any of these symptoms, it’s also important to B.E.F.A.S.T. The IU Health team uses that term for people to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a stroke.
B.E.F.A.S.T. stands for:
Other stroke symptoms include a sudden severe headache or sudden confusion, which is what Ron experienced.
“Just be knowledgeable of the signs,” Ron said. “I wasn’t aware of what my problem was. It took my wife to identify and take quick action.”
“I think the big thing is being aware if something weird is going on,” Mary added. “Don’t hesitate to get to the emergency room.”