Thinking FAST helps woman survive stroke

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Every minute a stroke cuts off oxygen from your brain, you lose 1.9 million brain cells.

That's why it was so important that Wyoming Snyder, a 61-year-old former EMT-turned-teacher, recognized when something wasn't right.

She and her daughter Kristie drove to Topeka from Salina in March to check a rental home in Topeka.

"I went to get out of the car, and I couldn't walk straight," Wyoming recalls. "We got to the porch and went in the house and (my daughter) said, 'Are you having a stroke?' and I said, 'I think I might be.'"

Kristie rushed her mom to Stormont-Vail's ER. By the time they arrived, Wyoming's symptoms were clearing up. The hospital did a scan that didn't show anything unusual, but they were monitoring her because her heart rate remained elevated, which is when it happened.

"The registration lady was asking me questions...and she asked me a question and I couldn't get it out. She wasn't understanding me," Wyoming said.

The nurse and Kristie both realized Wyoming was having another stroke.

She was rushed for a second scan which clearly showed a massive clot had developed since the first scan less than two hours earlier.

Dr. Hartej Sethi, a neurologist at Stormont, says the clot was blocking an artery that supplied the blood and oxygen to two-thirds of the right hemisphere of Wyoming's brain.

"Time is of the essence," Dr. Sethi said. "Every second you're not getting blood flow back, the brain is losing brain cells by the millions. You want to reopen that blood vessel with every available resource."

Doctors gave Wyoming a drug called tPA to break up the clot. Because it was so large, they then used a catheter and retrieved a large clot. The longer it would have remained in Wyoming's brain, the more devastating the potential damage.

"You could be paralyzed on the left side, severe difficulty with speech, difficulty with swallowing," Dr. Sethi said of the possible effects.

Instead, Wyoming is back on her feet. She even shared her story at a recent stroke conference. She spent four days in the hospital and, since her stroke happened over spring break, she didn't even miss a full day before returning to the classroom.

"Everything's back to normal. I haven't had any difficulty," she said. "(I'm) very lucky, very blessed."

"It's amazing," Dr. Sethi said. "We have success stories, but this is one of the best we have."

Wyoming says her story carries an important lesson.

"Be aware," she said. "Don't be afraid to get it checked out."

Know the Signs
The acronym FAST can help you remember the signs of a stroke.
F: Is your face drooping on one side?
A: Does one arm drift down when you hold both out in front of you?
S: Is your speech slurred?
T: If you have any of those signs, it's time to call 911