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August 21 2017

Former nurse takes own advice, seeks immediate care for signs of stroke

Signs of stroke aren’t always obvious. A transient ischemic attack, or TIA “mini-stroke,” may be short-lived. You may not even realize that you are having a TIA and need immediate medical attention.

That wasn’t the case for Kathie Mayer, 74, of Oconomowoc. Things were a little off for the former nurse on June 8. First, she had almost dropped a cup of coffee. Then she needed to lie down.

“Something was not right. The left side of my face felt strange,” Kathie said. “Being a nurse, I thought, I would tell someone else to go straight to the hospital. So why am I not taking my own advice?”

Fortunately, Kathie’s husband, Roger, 80, took her to ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital’s emergency department right away.

Both Kathie and Roger thought Kathie might be having a stroke. Just a month earlier, Roger had learned about stroke signs and symptoms at a ProHealth Care presentation at the Oconomowoc Rotary Club. He had brought the program materials home and discussed them with Kathie.

Kathie spent 45 years caring for others as a nurse at ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital. She said that during her emergency at the hospital in June, she was amazed by the care she received as a stroke patient.

“They took charge,” she said. “They asked a lot of questions and were concerned about what time it was when I first noticed a problem.”

Despite her own concerns, Kathie noted that the emergency medicine team had a well-orchestrated and thorough protocol that included monitoring her vital signs and providing necessary diagnostic tests. Once tests showed the blood clot that had caused the TIA was no longer a threat and she did not need emergency treatment, Kathie was admitted to the hospital overnight for observation. She also had follow-up tests and evaluations by her physician, a physical therapist and occupational therapist the next day.

Kathie took it easy over the weekend but was back volunteering at ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice in Oconomowoc on Monday. Her face showed no sign of the slight droop the TIA had caused. She followed up with a nurse practitioner specializing in stroke care to review modifiable stroke risk factors and lifestyle changes to prevent her risk of another stroke. She feels fine, is taking a new medication and will get regular checkups with her primary care physician.

Even though the symptoms of a TIA may not seem dramatic, it is critical to get immediate medical help if they occur.

“Always seek emergency medical care for any sign of stroke,” said Veronica Laak, a nurse practitioner and ProHealth Care’s stroke program coordinator. “Anyone experiencing stroke symptoms needs to be immediately evaluated by a physician and receive diagnostic tests. Follow-up preventive care also helps reduce the risk for stroke in the future.”

Call 911 if you think someone might be having a stroke. The signs include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; confusion; trouble speaking or understanding; trouble seeing; trouble walking, dizziness or a loss of balance or coordination; or severe headache with no known cause.

According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association:

  • Anyone can experience a TIA, but the risks increase with age.

  • Stroke risk factors include smoking, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and blood clots.

  • Among people who are treated for a stroke caused by a blockage, between 7 and 40 percent report experiencing a TIA first.

  • About a third of the people who have a TIA go on to have a more severe stroke within a year.

To learn about stroke care, visit ProHealthCare.org/Stroke or call 262-928-8200. A vascular screening package is also available for people 55 and older. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org/VascularScreening.

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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.