The morning started off like any other day, little did I know it would end up being the most dramatic day in my life.
Thankfully, due to the quick actions of the Abrazo West Campus stroke team, led by Dr. Sushant Kale, I’m able to recount this story so others may see into the world of stroke and have confidence in the medical professionals who are standing by ready to help.
My husband left to take our oldest daughter to school. I was at home with our youngest daughter who was 10 months old at the time. Suddenly, my right side began to feel numb, my face started to tingle, and I felt the need to lay down. Although not initially alarmed by these “sensations” I thought they would pass after taking a short break.
Maybe I had stood up too fast or needed to eat breakfast?
My husband returned to see me laying in the middle of our living room. At the time I did not think I needed to go to the hospital.
Thankfully, my husband was present to assist. Luckily, Abrazo West Campus is the closest hospital to our house. By the time we got to the hospital I was not able to walk with assistance. My husband ran into the ER and sought help to get me into the building.
Within minutes of being at the hospital I was getting a CT scan to find the cause of my symptoms. Shortly after the CT scan, nurses explained that I was most likely experiencing some form of stroke and that a stroke team was being assembled to remedy the situation.
Dr. Sushant Kale and his team recommended I receive tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, as soon as possible. Later I would learn tPA is the gold standard in the initial treatment options for stroke. I received the tPA dosage within an hour of my first stroke symptoms (this would prove to be another important event in my stroke time line, receiving tPA within an hour of initial onset).
I was then prepped and sent to begin a thrombectomy carried out by Dr. Kale and his team to manually clear the clot that had formed in my brain that was causing the stroke. It was during the beginning of the surgery after the first incision when Dr. Kale saw the clot begin to clear using technology to see the clot location to perform the procedure. The thrombectomy was halted as the tPA cleared the clot before it needed to be manually removed.
Within two hours of first arriving at the hospital I was recovering in the ICU. I was able to speak normally, and I was already beginning to regain feeling on my right side. At this point the priority shifted to finding the reason behind my stroke. My diagnosis was an ischemic stroke caused by a cervical artery dissection. This was discovered by Dr. Kale from the imaging from the initial CT scan and symptoms I had displayed before the stroke event.
I explained to him that about 10 days prior I began to have pain in the left portion of my neck and frequent headaches. I attributed it to stress from heavy travel over the holidays and attending the funeral of a family member.
I spent three days in the ICU. Dr. Kale and Amanda Rowell, the stroke team nurse navigator, did a tremendous job at keeping me informed on my progress and what to expect going forward.
They explained the long recovery ahead and to prioritize my rehabilitation and mental health from the start. I was even given a direct number to reach Amanda with any questions after my discharge.
I soon began physical therapy to regain the strength I lost in my right side, I also had multiple follow-ups with Dr. Kale to check my progress. I was able to regain my full physical strength within six months and close to full mental stamina within a year of the stroke.
I consider myself very lucky in that my outcome is almost back to normal physically and mentally. This is a direct reflection on the care I received from Dr. Kale and his team at Abrazo West.
I attribute three critical events to my survival and long-term diagnosis.
One, the decision to seek medical attention immediately, by getting to Abrazo West Campus (which as a Primary Stroke Center has advanced treatment capabilities including Thrombectory). It is possible, even another hour would have changed my prognosis entirely.
Second, the personal interaction of having Amanda and Dr. Kale by my side, comforting me and keeping me informed on the situation gave me great peace in the midst of the situation.
Thirdly, Amanda and Dr. Kale’s guidance on how to handle recovery setting expectations for what was to come.
My husband and I have discussed multiple times how lucky we were to go to Abrazo West Campus and that Dr. Kale was on call that day. We owe a tremendous debt to them as they were able to show such professionalism and care when I needed it most.
Stephanie Flynn is a Buckeye resident who experienced a stroke at age 34. Her story emphasizes the importance of recognizing the signs of stroke and seeking immediate emergency care. Abrazo West Campus, 13677 W. McDowell Road, Goodyear, is a thrombectomy capable Primary Plus Stroke Center. For more information, visit AbrazoHealth.com. If you or a loved one are showing signs of stroke, call 911 immediately.