Peggy’s Story: Every Second Counts

"Time is brain” is the motto that encourages people to act quickly when a stroke is suspected.

Fast action by Middletown resident Rita Ratliff when she feared her mother, Eureka “Peggy” Bowman, was having a stroke resulted in a much better recovery for Peggy.

On the morning of Dec. 28, Peggy, who lives with Rita and another of her daughters, suddenly stopped brushing her hair and slumped in her chair.

“The left side of Mom’s face was droopy and the minute I saw that, I knew it was a stroke,” Rita recalls.

Rita immediately called 911 and her mother was taken to the Emergency Trauma Center at Atrium Medical Center. Atrium is a Certified Primary Stroke Center with a well-coordinated program specifically designed to treat strokes swiftly and effectively.

“I followed the ambulance in my car and when I arrived at Atrium, Mom was already being taken care of by a team of people ready for her arrival,” says Rita. “They had already done a CT (Computed Tomography) scan.”

Neurologist Subodh Wadhwa, MD, director of the Stroke Program at Atrium, told Peggy’s family that she had suffered a major stroke. He also told them some potentially good news: she was a candidate for a medication known as tPA (tissue plasminogen activator).

“If the stroke is caused by a blocked artery or blood clot, tPA can be administered,” says Dr. Wadhwa. “This drug, also known as the clot buster, opens up the artery and increases blood flow. That means a faster, better recovery and less brain damage for patients like Peggy.”

Dr. Wadhwa quickly adds that tPA must be given as soon as possible after stroke onset.

“It’s true that time is brain,” he says. “Thanks to Peggy’s family, she was at Atrium in time.”

Peggy was taken to the ICU (intensive care unit) where she spent five days, and then to a regular room. Every step along the way, Peggy had physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy to help her regain losses in function and mobility.

“Every day we saw progress and soon she was ready for rehabilitation,” Rita says.

Peggy spent three weeks making even more progress at Atrium’s Rehabilitation Center, and was then ready to go home. Today, she continues with therapy. She and the family are pleased with her great recovery.

Peggy and her family are also pleased with Atrium Medical Center. Rita recalls that when more than 30 relatives arrived at the Emergency Trauma Center the day her Mom was there, all were able to spend time with Peggy. A family member also stayed every night with Peggy in her room. Rita reports that Atrium team members were happy to provide pillows, blankets – and understanding.

“It certainly was wonderful to have my family with me,” Peggy says.

But long before the hospital stay, before the rehab, Peggy’s good recovery started with fast action by Rita.

“I knew it was a stroke and I wanted to help,” Rita says. “But I didn’t know there was a medication to help the patient. We are very grateful that Mom had tPA. Very grateful.”

Know the Signs of a Stroke

Learn to recognize stroke symptoms and warnings signs. An easy way to remember what to look for is to think and BE FAST:

B — Balance: Does the person have a sudden loss of balance?
E — Eyes: Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?
F — Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A — Arm: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S — Speech: Ask the person to say something. Is the speech slurred or garbled?
T — Time: If you notice any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately. Time is critical!

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