Tale of Two Strokes
John Stull didn’t know he’d had a stroke until his wife Ann came home.
Jack Hoschouer recognized his own stroke right away, and traveled to his wife Aya for help.
Their very different situations have one thing in common: Excellent recovery.
Speed of care – and the right care – limited the strokes’ impact, giving John and Jack the best chance for full recovery.
John was home alone when he grabbed a beer while watching the news – and suddenly the bottle lay smashed on the floor. John cleaned it up, and when Ann came home he tried to say, “The strangest thing happened” but he couldn’t speak.
“My brain was forming the words, but I spoke gibberish,” John recalls. “It was very alarming for both of us.”
Ann drove John to Northfield Hospital’s Emergency Department; he walked right in. “I had good control of my arms and legs,” he says. “The main symptom was speech.”
ED physician Alice Suchomel, MD ordered a CAT scan, consulted with a neurologist at Abbott Northwestern in Minneapolis and diagnosed an ischemic stroke, caused by blood clot that traveled to the brain. John was immediately given tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to dissolve the clot and improve blood flow to the part of his brain being deprived of blood flow. “After about 15 minutes, I could form words again,” John says.
Northfield Hospital is a certified Acute Stroke Ready Hospital; a partnership with Abbott Northwestern, a certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, gets rapid treatment for stroke patients who need the highest level of care.
For John, that meant transfer by helicopter to Abbott – a 12-minute ride. “About a dozen people came out to the roof at Abbott. By the time they finished examining me, I could fully talk again.”
John was given neurological tests every 15 minutes (“press your arms together, your legs together, lean to the left, lean to the right, stand up, sit down, fight, fight, fight,” he jokes) for six hours, then every half hour, then every hour. After 36 hours, John was symptom-free, and sent home.
Three months later, Jack was picking up lunch at a local sandwich shop when he bent over to grab a bag of chips “and wham! I felt it in my head and knew instantly what it was,” he recalls. “I suddenly felt disoriented, uncoordinated and weak.”
Jack lost control of his right side; driving home, “I had to look at my hand on the gear shift and my foot on the brake to make sure they were working.”
Jack’s wife Aya called 911; within minutes, the ambulance was there. Jack was being treated in the Emergency Department within 40 minutes after the stroke.
A CT scan and MRI diagnosed that Jack had an ischemic stroke; he was given heparin to break up the blood clot that caused his stroke, and was admitted to the hospital.
“I called John from my hospital bed and told him, ‘I caught your stroke,’” Jack laughs.
Jack was hospitalized 5½ days, then transferred to the VA hospital for intensive acute therapy – both physical therapy and occupational therapy. “They did a good job with in-patient PT and OT at the hospital, so I was in a good position to do well with therapy at the VA,” Jack says. “My right leg was dragging; I had to work on walking. Handwriting was hard, but it came back fairly quickly, and completely.”
For Jack, quick intervention in the Emergency Department and hospital helped prevent any long-term damage. “I made good progress because the ambulance got me to the hospital quickly, the Emergency Department gave me the right treatment right away, and the hospital therapists evaluated me and did activities to build on what I could do to improve,” Jack says.
Jack’s back on his bike; John is back on his boat. There are no lifestyle changes or on-going treatment for either of them.
Their advice to adults of every age: Know the symptoms of stroke, and get help right away.
“You can have a stroke without any warning,” Jack says. “Don’t dally,” John adds. “Time counts.”