Eleanor Stockdale knows exactly how fortunate she is. On a typical January morning, as the 76-year-old Churchville resident, who goes by the name Bee, was walking one of her dogs with her friend Priscilla Akers, she suddenly did not feel right. “Priscilla said, ‘did you mean to let Snoopy [my dog] go free?’ I realized his leash was on the ground and I didn’t know why.” Then her left leg refused to cooperate: “I couldn’t step forward. Instead, my left leg just went to the side.” It was when her speech slurred and she tipped to the ground that Akers called 911.
What Stockdale didn’t yet know was just how crucial quick action was in her case. By the time she arrived at Augusta Health, staff had been alerted and there was a neurologist ready to help diagnose via Skype. Glenn Brammer, MD — who had treated Stockdale for a heart attack in the recent past — was also there. An MRI revealed a blood clot. Because she was given clot-busting drugs right away, her symptoms — the slurred speech and left-side paralysis — resolved. In a few days, she was able to go home.
According to Emergency Department nurse Jen Jolin, RN, who was part of Stockdale’s initial care team, her case is the perfect illustration of how things should go. Recognizing the signs of stroke — dizziness, slurred speech and/or blurred vision, paralysis and confusion — and getting help immediately might make the difference between life and death, or permanent disability. “That famous saying ‘time is brain’ couldn’t be more apt,” she says. “The longer symptoms remain untreated, the less we are able to reverse them [with clot-busting drugs or surgery].”
Back home on 5 acres — where she tends to dogs, donkeys, horses and alpacas — Stockdale is grateful for the rapid care she received. “I don’t speak religion,” she says, “but I do believe God put me where I was and put my friend there with me. If I had been alone, I’d have really been in a pickle!”
She has a few residual effects: “My left leg turns out a bit and my balance isn’t wonderful, but it’s more annoying than anything else,” she points out. If she feels tired, she takes a short rest and is back at it. “I’ve always been a physical person and I don’t ever want that to change. I continue to be me.” And that’s what it’s all about.