Would You Be Able to Recognize the Symptoms of a Stroke?

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Jim Murphy is used to being on the go. The busy husband and father of two is in sales and always on the move. But one night just after Thanksgiving 2018, his world came skidding to a halt.

“I had fallen asleep in my easy chair. Around midnight, I woke up and went to put my dishes in the sink. The next thing I knew I was looking at the kitchen ceiling. I couldn’t talk; I couldn’t move. I was scrambling to get up, but nothing was working. I tried to yell, but nothing came out,” remembers Jim.

Luckily, Jim’s youngest daughter Olivia had heard her dad fall. When she discovered him on the floor, she woke her mom, Jim’s wife, Susan. Susan immediately dialed 9-1-1.

Jim doesn’t remember much from this time, but he recalls how quickly the rescue squad arrived. First responders were able to begin administering “Stroke Protocol” even before they arrived at Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center’s Emergency Department.

Jim was diagnosed with an Ischemic Stroke, which occurs when a vessel supplying blood to the brain is obstructed. According to the American Stroke Association, this accounts for 87% of all strokes.

Since doctors knew when Jim’s stroke had occurred, they were able to administer Alteplase IV r-tPA, also referred simply as “t-PA.” If it’s administered within a small window of time after a stroke, it can help dissolve the clot, improving blood flow.

“They were able to get that into me within two hours of the onset, which was huge. They took an MRI of me, and about a day later, things were looking good,” says Jim.

While Jim was beginning to talk again, doctors determined his arm and leg on his right side needed help and he would benefit from acute rehabilitation at an inpatient therapy center. After three weeks, Jim was released, but still needed outpatient therapy. That’s when he met the team at Sentara Therapy Center.

“Physical therapy gives you the tools to keep going, even after you’re finished with the actual therapy,” says Jim. He worked with a team comprised of both physical and occupational therapists, along with a speech-language pathologist. “I didn’t have to travel all over Northern Virginia looking for these services, Sentara Therapy Center offers all three therapies under one roof: physical, occupational and speech. And, on top
of that, the team is like no other!” says Jim.

Sentara Therapy Center Team Coordinator, Sarah Sidar, MS, OTR/L, agrees, “Sentara Therapy Center is the only therapy center offering comprehensive neurological rehabilitation, and the only center to offer all three disciplines under one roof in Woodbridge. Sentara Therapy Center is dedicated to helping patients achieve their highest level of function possible after a stroke. These highly skilled services are essential to resuming daily activities at home, work and in the community.”

Jim was eager to return to work, but realized very quickly the grueling, six-day work weeks he used to do, were too much for him right now.

He finds himself getting frustrated: “I can function. I can move. I can walk. But it’s altogether different. I went from 150% all day long to some mornings I don’t know how I’m going to get up.”

However, Jim is quick to point out how lucky he is, “Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful. I know there are people out there who are in far worse shape than I am. I’m having an inner battle with myself to step back, slow down and take it as it comes.”

Would you be able to recognize the symptoms of a stroke? The American Stroke Association says by learning and sharing the F.A.S.T. warning signs, you just might save a life from stroke.

  • Face Drooping. Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.
  • Arm Weakness. Is one arm weak or numb?
  • Speech. Is speech slurred?
  • Time to Call 9-1-1. If the person shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get him/her to the hospital immediately.

To learn more about Sentara’s neuro and post-therapy services or to make an appointment with the Sentara Therapy Center, call 703-523-8750.

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