Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Early Stroke Treatment Makes Difference; St. Johns County Woman's Case Shows Benefit of Getting Help Fast

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Early Stroke Treatment Makes Difference; St. Johns County Woman's Case Shows Benefit of Getting Help Fast

Article excerpt

Byline: Maggie FitzRoy

Betty Warnock was cooking dinner one June evening in 2009 when she suddenly stopped moving and stared straight ahead.

Her husband, Larry, suspected she might be having a stroke. He'd recently read a list of stroke symptoms, so he quickly took action.

Remembering two ways to quickly determine if someone might be having a stroke, he asked her to stick out her tongue. Then he asked her to smile.

"She didn't respond in any way, so I called 911," he said.

Larry Warnock's quick action prevented his wife from sustaining massive brain damage. Within a half-hour, Betty Warnock was getting treated at Mayo Clinic, the closest primary and comprehensive stroke center to the Beaches.

Doctors found that Betty Warnock was having an ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot in the left side of her brain. Since she'd arrived in the emergency room within three hours of its onset, she was eligible for an intravenous medication called tissue plasminogen activator, or TPA.

The treatment broke up the clot, allowing blood and oxygen to flow again through the blocked area. Betty Warnock did sustain some brain damage, but not nearly what she would have had if she did not get treated with TPA.

Through speech and language therapy, she has regained the ability to speak, to understand what people are saying if they speak clearly and slowly and to read for short periods.

"In the most extreme form of aphasia, patients are completely mute and cannot understand anything," said Mayo vascular neurologist Kevin Barrett.

Strokes are the third-leading cause of death and the leading cause of serious and long-term disabilities in adults.

It's important for people to realize that symptoms come on abruptly, Barrett said. They include sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side of the body; sudden difficulty speaking or understanding speech; sudden blurred, double or decreased vision; sudden dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; a sudden severe headache or an unusual headache accompanied by a stiff neck, facial pain or vomiting; and confusion or problems with memory, spatial orientation or perception. …

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