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On Friday, June 1st, while finishing up an early dinner to get ready for the pool I had the freakiest experience. I was unable to talk, walk, or do anything with my right arm. I could see everything around me but could not control my right arm. I moved it with my left hand to where my brain was telling it to go but it would just drop and dangle.  This went on a couple times as I was trying to assess my situation. I was thinking seizure, heart attack, or about to pass out. I tried to get my son’s attention to call 911 but it didn’t come out as words. I sounded like the teacher from the Peanuts. He gave me a very odd look.

I was finally able to walk after a few minutes but I had absolutely no control or feeling in my right arm.  As I was shuffling to the floor by the couch to escape any fall hazards, he claimed I looked different. I got to the couch and floor in case I was going to fall from having a seizure, heart attack, or pass out.  I was still trying to talk but it was mumbled. He immediately knew something was wrong and called 911. He held the phone by me and eventually got it on the speaker setting to place on me. My son answered most of the questions from the dispatcher and helped translate my mumbled speech.  I could hear everything but I could not get my thoughts out and my speech was slow and slurred at this point. My son was the main communicator with the 911 operator. He took care of putting up the cat like the dispatcher said and getting the front door open (not the easiest thing to do with its tricky and high lock) for the paramedics.

When the paramedics arrived he directed them to me. I was finally able to speak more clearly but it was not normal.  I was still struggling to get my thoughts out. I could move my leg better but I had absolutely no feeling in my right arm and only minimal control.  I couldn’t pull or squeeze well at all. I could barely lift it. Instead, it was twitching and jerking on its own. While 4 paramedics were manning me, 1 was with my son. They helped him get what he needed for the ER and even shut the house. He then got to ride in the back of the ambulance with me. They harnessed him in similar to like what is inside glider planes. The paramedics told my son what to text message his dad the whole time during the ambulance ride as he was in a meeting and we didn’t get him via phone calls prior to their arrival.

At the ER I was whisked for a CT scan while my son was with the charge nurse and one paramedic until I came out and was put in a room.  My husband finally was able to join us in the ER room to learn I was being treated for a stroke protocol and we had to decide about tPA or not. Thanks to my son’s fast response in calling 911 and the EMT’s quick arrival we got to the ER in the window for tPA to be administered. By the time my husband arrived at the ER I had regained partial feeling in my right arm but still had lots of tingling, twitching, and couldn’t fully push, pull, or squeeze but I had regained full speech and definitely looked normal in the face. We chose to do the tPA.

45 minutes after the tPA was started I had full feeling back in my right arm and at 2 hours after administration, I had full ability to control my arm, push, pull, and squeeze! The tPA is intended to work like Drano in pipes but to my blood to remove clots and prevent further strokes. Thus, I was then moved to ICU for 24 monitoring and waiting for an MRI. Late Saturday morning I got the MRI and learned in the afternoon that my brain was fine, no damage, no sign of stroke so my incident on Friday was classified as a TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) and the tPA did its job at keeping me from having a severe stroke! The neurologist did order a ton of bloodwork to look for any rare blood clotting disorder or genetic conditions that could have been a contributing factor since I did not have high cholesterol, not high blood pressure, and was not obese.  All of the doctors indicated that my history of aura migraines and my current birth control factors may have caused my TIA as they drastically increase the risk of clots. And like the doctor said, I was discharged Sunday afternoon.

We are so glad I had no brain damage and I am fine. We are thankful for my son’s ability to handle calling 911, working with the dispatcher, and the paramedics fast response so I could get to the ER quickly. Who knows what would have happened if my son would have waited to hear back from my husband or waited for him to get home as we would have missed the tPA window and it is possible what had started in the house could have continued to a full-on stroke. I am glad to be home and feeling so much better.  It will take some time to return to normal or pre-TIA.

I am writing my story so that others will understand the importance of ensuring that their children know how to call 911 for medical emergencies and to warn people about the signs of stroke.  Please, talk with your children of all ages about how to call 911 for help, the importance of staying calm, and answering their questions. Make sure your children know your address so they can clearly tell it to the dispatcher.  Make sure your children know how to unlock front doors for paramedics. Make sure your children know how to reach their other parent or another family member at their work or cell phone in case of an emergency.

At the hospital, we all learned about Act FAST, which my son did without even knowing it.  Thus, it is important that everyone knows what Act FAST is; in order to best address a stroke (or TIA) one needs to act as quickly as possible.  Time really does matter as there is only a 2 to 4-hour window from the time the stroke starts with being able to give tPA. FAST is the acronym for Face (Look at the person’s face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?), Arms (Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? Do they have difficulty moving one arm), Speech (Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?), and Time (If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately).  Thus, teach your whole family to Act FAST and make sure your children know how to call 911.  Seriously, my son’s ability to call 911 quickly made the difference for me!