Mary F. Burton, a surge employee for FEMA who lives in Greenville, was having a quiet Monday evening, and simply doing her dishes after dinner. Suddenly, without warning, things went very wrong.
Her right side felt numb. She literally fell to the floor. While she was unsure of what was exactly happening to her body, she knew it had to be something serious. She called her neighbor, Penny Bergner, for help, and crawled to unlock her door.
When Bergner arrived and began asking Burton questions, Burton believed she was answering in articulate sentences. But what Bergner was hearing was incoherent, and she immediately took Burton to Augusta Health’s Emergency Department. At the registration desk, Bergner alerted the staff that she believed Burton was having a stroke.
“The doctors and staff were very attentive and asking all the right questions,” Burton recalls. “I had a clot … and was experiencing a stroke. As I tried to answer their questions, I was getting frustrated because they couldn’t understand me. Even though my speech couldn’t be understood, I could still write, so I began writing my answers.”
Because of her quick actions in alerting her neighbor and the neighbor’s quick recognition of stroke symptoms, Burton had arrived at Augusta Health within the time frame to receive tPA, a clot-busting drug. Augusta Health staff also connected with University of Virginia (UVA) neuro-interventionists via the Telestroke Program connection. It was decided that Burton should be transported to UVA because, besides tPA, she was a good candidate for thrombectomy, a surgery that can remove a clot if tPA does not.
Burton was flown to UVA, but by the time she arrived, the clot had dissolved. “Things had improved,” she says. “I could speak and be understood. By Wednesday, I was eating regular food. I had a bit of a relapse and my right side went numb again, but that cleared up in a couple of hours. I left the hospital on Thursday and have had no long-lasting effects.”
She adds that the stroke “came out of nowhere,” but she has been diagnosed with aFib. “I think my heart got into a rhythm, loosened a clot and it went to my brain. But it still feels random. My sister was diagnosed with aFib and has not had a stroke. I did. My father-in-law had a stroke and was bedridden. I had a stroke and I’m back to my ‘normal’ life without restrictions.”
Burton’s normal is more like a new normal. She’s working on her aFib and cholesterol, drinking more water, changing her diet and exercising more. She has a FAST sticker with stroke symptoms on her refrigerator.
“You can’t take things for granted. You need to be conscientious and take care of yourself,” she says. “I’ve been blessed. I had great care at both Augusta Health and UVA. Because everyone acted so quickly and things were taken care of so expeditiously, I’ve had no side effects. For everything that happened, I was a lucky one.”
Have you suffered a stroke? Learn about the Shenandoah Valley Stroke Club at augustahealth.com/events/shenandoah-valley-stroke-club.