“How is fireworks?”
The illogical sentence was all that the normally articulate Joan Hampton, mother of three, could get down on paper as she lay in her hospital bed and tried to communicate with her family following her stroke.
Call it a silver lining of sorts, but as Joan recalls, the period immediately following her stroke was the first time that she truly identified with her 14-year-old son, whose autism makes it difficult to express his thoughts. “Now I understand,” Joan says, remembering how frustrating it was to converse then.
It would be the first of many revelations for Joan, who, at the age of 45, was considered young by stroke standards. Her lack of any typical risk factors—such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, smoking and obesity—also made her an unusual candidate for stroke.
On the morning of July 5, 2011, as Joan stood up from her couch to check on her son, she was struck by a sudden and severe headache on the left side of her head. As she made her way upstairs, she called out to her husband, who called 911. Paramedics arrived and quickly took her to Carolinas Medical Center’s Comprehensive Stroke Center.
The stroke center is part of the Carolinas Stroke Network, a system of hospitals that ensures “the highest level of care for every stroke patient,” says Phaniraj Iyengar, MD, a neurologist specializing in stroke and medical director of the Carolinas Stroke Network. In addition to rapid transport to a comprehensive stroke center, the stroke network also offers a highly trained team of stroke specialists available 24 hours, seven days a week—including stroke neurologists and interventional neuroradiologists—emergency neuro-interventional services and smooth transition to stroke rehabilitation care.
Joan arrived at the hospital within the critical three-hour window and the clot-busting drug tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) stopped the stroke in progress. “We’re never sure if the blood vessels will open up totally,” says Dr. Iyengar, who oversaw Joan’s care. “But hers did. She’s very lucky.”
While Joan did receive rehabilitation in the hospital, she didn’t have to undergo physical, occupational or speech therapy following her discharge. “It’s amazing how effective the tPA was,” she says. “But I did not wait to call 911. I got to the hospital very quickly and was able to get the medication. ”
Joan’s story is inspiring others to learn the signs and symptoms of stroke and to take a pledge to act quickly if threatened by a stroke.
“Do not ignore the signs of a stroke, even if you are young and healthy. Call 911. I am living proof that every second matters.”
To watch Joan’s story and to take The Pledge, visit www.carolinasstrokenetwork.org.
– A sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body
– Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
– Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
– Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
– Sudden severe headache with no known cause