When the ambulance arrived at the hospital, the stroke
team was already on notice and rushed her into the emergency
room for a CT scan. Minutes later, they told me the bad news.
There was a blood clot in the brain, and a clot-busting drug
would be tried.
It was 8 a.m. Friday when we sat down to breakfast at a
hotel in New Glarus, Wisconsin, where we met Kays Sycamore
High School classmate, John Oltman, and his wife, Chris.
As we sat down, Kay fell over sideways, and as I grabbed
her to put her back into the chair I sensed something was seriously
wrong. She was mumbling. Chris, a retired nurse, immediately
said stroke and I went to the front desk to call
911. Five minutes later, a police officer arrived to offer first
aid, and the New Glarus Rescue Squad arrived in about 10 minutes.
Chris suggested instead of the local hospital we take her
directly to the University of Wisconsin hospital, which has a
specialty team for dealing with strokes. This was a wise move,
as the golden hour is critical in treating a person early on.
This photo was taken Thursday in Kays hospital
room with sons Todd, left, and Darrin with her. (Provided photo
for Shaw Media)
Another scan showed that surgery using a thin wire inserted
in the groin going up into the brain was advisable, a fairly
new technique but one thats been proven effective, so I
signed the necessary papers as she was rushed into surgery.
The clot broke into two pieces when they were drawing it
out, and one went into the area where speech and comprehension
are affected. Something called aphasia, they told
me. They managed to remove the second one, as well, but the damage
Her right side had been paralyzed, and she lost the ability
to swallow, but as I write this three days later, she has regained
the use of her right side and can swallow again. Her speech and
comprehension, however, are impaired for now.
By the time you read this, she will be transferred to Marion
Joy in Wheaton, IL, acute stroke rehab hospital closer to home,
and the long road back to recovery will begin for both of us.
It is too early to know the outcome, but I learned some
lessons to be better prepared when away from home:
Always have a list of medicines in your billfold
or purse and know your spouses special dietary needs or
Carry your insurance cards, names of your doctor(s)
and pharmacy, and important family and close friends phone
numbers and emails.
Even a signed medical directive should be taken
on trips. With smartphones, storing this information should be
easy, but many of us dont take the time to enter that vital
In my next column, I hope to share more about strokes and