TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Deidre Barnett woke up one morning last October with a bad headache. It was so bad, she called in sick to her job at Topeka's Stormont-Vail Health Care.
She ended up there that day anyway.
Deidre says she took a shower and, when she got out, looked in the mirror and noticed the left side of her face was drooping.
"I thought, 'This isn't good!" she said.
As a person, she didn't want to believe the worst. But as a Registered Nurse, she knew she had to call 911.
"Things progressed quickly," she said. "In my head, I was thinking clearly. But then, when I tried to call and I couldn't speak, I knew that was a progressive sign."
By the time paramedics arrived, Deidre says, she had trouble getting onto the stretcher because her left side had become weak.
She was having a stroke and, like all stroke patients, recovery depends on getting treated quickly.
Dr. Jon Jones, an emergency room physician at Stormont, cites a UCLA study that estimated 1.9 million neurons are lost for every minute of stroke. That means once symptoms appear, if not treated, you rapidly lose brain function.
Jones says part of getting that quick treatment is calling 911. He says an ambulance crew can not only start initial evaluations and medications, they also can transport a patient quickly and notify the ER ahead of time that they have a patient that has stroke symptoms so everyone is ready when the patient arrive. Having that heads up, he says, gives a time advantage. Stormont is a certified stroke center and has a stroke team dedicated to diagnosing and treating people suffering a stroke.
Deidre says her story also serves a reminder to call an ambulance. She says, as quickly as her symptoms escalated, she'd hate to think what would have happened had she gotten behind the wheel and tried to drive herself to the hospital.
Deidre spent two months in rehab, regaining her speech and strengthening her left side. She returned to work using a walker, but, by March, joined her team at a national tennis tournament, winning her match.
"My goal was to get back to 100 percent and I think I've accomplished that," she said.
Know the warning signs of a stroke with the acronym "FAST" - if your Face droops on one side; you raise both Arms and one drifts down; or your Speech is slurred, it's "Time" to call 911.