Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Fifteen years ago today...

Fifteen years ago, this was a bad day. But the day could have been far worse.

May 8, 1998, started as a busy work day for a reporter, starting with two-hour drive from Little Rock, Ark., to Batesville, Ark. Fellow reporter Sandy Davis and I were sitting in a government office, sifting through boxes of documents.

About noon, my right arm and right leg fell useless. I could not speak. I was in the grip of a stroke. Sandy got help. An ambulance crew took me to White River Medical Center.

For this 15th "anniversary" of my stroke, I spoke with Dr. John O. Collins, the neurologist who treated me with the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA. At the time, he was practicing in Batesville, the small town where I grew up. Not long before, he'd finished a medical residency at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

I was the first patient he administered tPA to on his own.

"You were a classic case," he said. Within an hour of my symptoms, a CT scan showed a blood clot, in the left side of my brain. About two hours after my stroke, the tPA started flowing. Shortly afterward, I showed clear signs of recovery. My arm and leg could move once again. I struggled with speech but that, too, came back.

The drug tPA was rarely used in 1998 - especially at small town hospitals. It's still used only 5-10 percent of the time, often because people don't get to a hospital in time for the treatment, Collins said.

He stayed in Batesville for four years and now practices in Fort Wayne, Ind., where he  frequently works with stroke survivors in their recovery.

He was one of a series of health professionals, along with colleagues, friends and my wife, Laura, who helped me recover physically and regain my abilities to speak coherently and eventually to write again.

I thank God for all those people. He gave me their help and the strength to get through some struggling recovery times.

But as the first blog posting here back in 2005 states, it's really not about me. The purpose of today's posting is to remind people to know the stroke signs and symptoms and don't delay getting help. You can save or change a life.

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