After a long night of work at US Airways, all Ron Wilson of Peabody wanted to do was sleep. After a short nap, he got up because he had to take his children to school. But when he stood up, he noticed that he couldn’t feel the right half of his body. When he tried talking, his words were not coming out the right way. But, he did not want to scare his young children by calling the ambulance in front of them.
“You aren’t going to like what I did next,” Ron explains. Instead of calling 9-1-1 and getting an ambulance take him to the emergency room to receive treatment quickly, he drove his children to school. “Even though the school was only a mile down the road, I now realize that I could have endangered myself, my kids and other drivers on the road,” said Ron. After he had dropped his children off, he pulled over and quickly called his wife who works in the Intensive Care Unit at NSMC Salem Hospital and told her, “I think I’m having a stroke.”
His wife called 9-1-1 and Ron was transported to NSMC Salem Hospital. After the Emergency Room team and a neurologist evaluated him and gave him an immediate CT exam, they determined he was having an ischemic stroke caused by a blood clot. Because of the type of stroke he was having, his doors determined that he was eligible to receive t-PA (tissue plasminogen activator) treatment, which helps break up the clot and return blood flow to the brain. “I didn’t feel any immediate effects of the treatment, but by the next day even though I was feeling very weak, I could move my arms and legs normally and my speech had returned to normal.”
A stroke occurs when blood flow is cut off to certain areas of the brain. If the flow of blood is not replenished in the specific area quickly, there could be life-threatening and permanent damages to the brain. For every minute a patient having a stroke doesn’t receive treatment, 1.9 million brain cells die.
Ron’s story illustrates the need for fast treatment if you suspect someone maybe having a stroke. To be effective, tPA should be given to a patient as soon as possible after the first symptoms of stroke can be perceived. Not all patients are eligible for tPA, as it depends how long the symptoms of the stroke have been taking place. So being able to tell a healthcare professional as much as possible, as soon as possible can make the difference in the extent of possible recovery.
“I never though I could have a stroke,” Ron said, “I was 41 when this happened. When I was younger I was always in the gym, but after my wife and I had the kids, I stopped going to the gym as often because there was not enough time. But I’d ride bikes with the kids or jog down to the park, which is a mile away. I thought I was pretty healthy.”
Now about two months after his stroke, Ron is feeling close to 100 percent. “My memory is still foggy and my mind is not as sharp as it was before. But that is to be expected, one, because of the stroke, and two, because I am getting older,” Ron chuckles.
Ron has now started taking care of another health issue. “I have sleep apnea, and I have the CPAP machine (Continuous positive airway pressure machine; which keeps the airway open during sleep) for it. But before the stroke, I just ignored the problem. Now I make sure that I use it everyday because I understand that it is important for me to take care of because sleep apnea can contribute to heart and blood vessel disease.” Ron is still active, jogging once or twice a week. He recognizes that because he has already had a stroke, he needs to treat his body right and do everything he can to prevent another one.
In between his beloved motorcycle rides and fixing up his car, Ron makes the time to visit NSMC to go to his follow up appointments. “The doctors at NSMC Salem Hospital have been great. I do not know what I would have done without such an amazing team. I am so grateful for what they did to treat me.”