May is Stroke Awareness Month and two local stroke survivors are spreading their messages of treatment and recovery to others.
Anyone can have a stroke, but if properly treated, at the first signs of a stroke, the lasting effects can be minimized. Just ask Tammy Slayton, of Kendallville, who suffered a stroke three years ago at the age of 40 but today is doing well. In fact, she is much better than she ever thought she would be. Tammy’s stroke occurred in the middle of the night after a normal day of running errands, going to work and being with her family. Her fiancé, Tim, found her unresponsive on the floor. He called 911 and she was transported to Parkview Hospital Randallia and later transferred to Parkview Regional Medical Center (PRMC).
At the hospital, she continued to have a decreased level of responsiveness. She was able to open her eyes but wasn't able to follow requests to move or speak. When she regained consciousness, she was told she suffered a massive stroke that impacted the right side of her brain and affected her ability to move the left side of her body. Tammy spent about 10 days at PRMC before being transferred to the inpatient rehabilitation unit at Parkview Randallia campus.
“I was scared to death. I could talk, but nothing made sense,” she said. She was given several tests including an MRI that showed her doctors just how extensive the damage was. Her doctors told Tammy and her family that they should be prepared to find her a nursing home. But they didn’t know how determined she was to beat this setback and return to her normal life.
Her first goal was to attend her son’s senior night for his college football team. She made it. “I was in a wheelchair, but I was there.” For Tammy, the hardest part was her loss of thinking skills, something that Parkview’s rehabilitation therapy team started addressing almost immediately. “I was having trouble comprehending almost everything,” she said. Tammy underwent extensive therapy to help her get her thinking skills back.
After six weeks of extensive inpatient therapy, she was able to return to her home. Her therapy continues at Parkview Noble Therapy on Drake Road in Kendallville. Tammy has moved to Kendallville and taken a new job. Today, she is among the millions of stroke victims who lead normal lives.
Tammy is left with a great deal of gratitude for all of the help she has received from both her Parkview Randallia and Parkview Noble therapy teams. “She is amazing, she has made tremendous progress,” Linda Tritch, occupational therapist at Parkview Noble Therapy, said. “Tammy just doesn’t give up. Her determination and the support of her family has a huge impact on her recovery.”
Tammy agrees. “I felt like the stroke took everything away from me but now I am out there doing everything I was able to do before, and most importantly, I am helping others,” she said of her new job as an activity assistant at North Ridge Village Nursing Home in Albion.
Tammy has advice for anyone who experiences the hardships of a stroke, “Don’t ever give up. If I had given up, I’d still be in a wheelchair and probably in a nursing home. Through prayer, God, the help of my family and my own self-determination, I’ve made it this far.”
A stroke can strike anyone at any time and in many different ways. People often don’t believe they are having a stroke even when they are experiencing symptoms, such as drooping in their face, arm or leg weakness, or speech difficulties. Teresa Wolfe of Corunna is an example of someone who at first didn’t recognize the signals her body was sending her.
“I was walking kind of sideways, in a funny way,” she recalled recently. “My speech was slurred but I didn’t think I was having a stroke.”
Even after a visit to the doctor’s office she was not diagnosed. Her doctor sent her home but did order some tests. Teresa and her husband, Glenn, started reading up on the symptoms she was experiencing. She was exhibiting several of the symptoms of a stroke. She went in for a CT scan and while she was waiting to get the test, she started showing more signs of having a stroke. Shortly after that episode, she was taken by ambulance to the hospital.
At the hospital, it was determined that Teresa was having an ischemic stroke, which is a stroke caused by a blood clot in her brain. She was given intravenous alteplase (IV tPA), a clot busting medication and transferred to PRMC where she spent the next three days in intensive care.
“Don’t wait! If you don’t think it’s a big deal, believe me, it is a very big deal. Act FAST, call 911, the sooner you get help the better off you will be,” she advised.
Teresa started making progress following the treatment she received and was transferred to Parkview Hospital Randallia's Rehabilitation Unit, where she spent 25 days receiving inpatient therapy. Therapists there worked with Teresa on relearning some of the basic tasks of everyday life, such as how to shower and get dressed. “I remember that I couldn’t even wiggle my toes at first,” she said.
Teresa has continued her outpatient therapy at Parkview Noble Therapy. She used aquatic therapy, which is offered to patients through Parkview Noble Therapy’s partnership with the Cole Family YMCA, and the new anti-gravity treadmill that allowed her to strengthen her legs while reducing stress on her joints.
Teresa is now diligent about her health. She and her husband aren’t taking any more chances. “We pay attention to any of the little things that might be wrong,” she said. “After this happened to me, I make my husband go to health fairs and be tested to watch for those warning signs.”
Learn more about the Parkview Stanley Wissman Stroke Center, which encompasses services at many Parkview facilities. Education and support are available to help with recovery.
• Parkview Noble Hospital and Parkview Noble Therapy offer a monthly Stroke Survivors Support Group. All patients and their family members are welcome. This group meets on the third Tuesday of each month (except for December) at 6:30 p.m. at the Parkview Noble Therapy building, 1912 Drake Road, Kendallville.
• Parkview Regional Medical Center offers a monthly Stroke Support Group for survivors and their family members. The group meets the first Wednesday of each month, 6 – 8 p.m. at Parkview Regional Medical Center, Entrance 1, 11109 Parkview Plaza Drive, Fort Wayne.
• A Brain Aneurysm, Stroke and AVM Support Group meets the third Wednesday of each month, 6 – 8 p.m. at Parkview Regional Medical Center, Entrance 1, 11109 Parkview Plaza Drive, Fort Wayne. Family members and individuals affected by these stroke-related conditions are welcome.