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Absolutely No Waiting

Posted on January 9, 2020 in Patient Stories

Sleep on it? Terrible idea for stroke treatment

Patient Angela Miller poses with her husband Lee

Angela Miller will be the first to tell you that she has a stubborn streak, a trait she credits to being raised by a Marine.

So, when she was awakened by a paralyzing stroke on May 7, she did exactly what she should not do – she returned to bed to “sleep on it.” It wasn’t until almost 8 hours later when Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center neurosurgeon Keith Woodward, MD, removed the blood clot from her brain that Miller learned just how fortunate she was to be alive.

Miller had suffered a middle cerebral artery (MCA) stroke, one of the rarer and more devastating forms of ischemic stroke. With a fatality rate of up to 80 percent, MCA survivors are often left with severe – and permanent – disabilities.

Miller, however, shows few signs of having endured a massive stroke. “Unless you know what you’re looking for or know me personally, you can’t even tell I’ve had a stroke,” said the 46-year-old grandmother from the tiny Morgan County town of Sunbright.

“I am truly blessed, and I will sing the praises of Fort Sanders Regional and Methodist Medical Center and all their staff until the day I die,” she said.

When she and her family made the decision to go to a hospital, Miller went first to Methodist Medical Center, which is part of Covenant Health’s stroke hospital network and certified as an advanced primary stroke center. From Methodist, she was transported by ambulance to the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, where Dr. Woodward and the stroke team were waiting for her.

“They were absolutely amazing. They were professional. They were personable. Very, very, very good people. The whole crew, the whole staff, everybody I came in contact with that day saved my life.”

She heaps even more praise on Dr. Woodward, who performed the thrombectomy procedure that removed the blood clot which caused her stroke.

“He deserves special acknowledgment because he did such an amazing job,” she said. “My recovery would not have been what it was had he not done his job as well as he did, as quickly as he did. There are really not enough words to explain how grateful I am. I honestly believe that the only reason I am doing as well as I am is because of God and the doctors. God put the right people at the right place with the right qualifications and the right capabilities to put me where I am.”

Other than tiring easily, , especially during hot summer days, there’s no outward reminder of the stroke. Of course, there was another reminder – a stern warning from Dr. Woodward and the nurses who cared for her.

“They said, ‘If that ever happens again, I don’t care how you do it, but you need to get here immediately because the game you played this time was Russian roulette,’” said Miller. “That’s not exactly how they put it, but that’s how I took it.”

She now says that if a stroke ever happens to her again, there will be absolutely no waiting.

“I would not second-guess anything Dr. Woodward has to say,” she said. “That’s how much I trust his word. He didn’t placate, he didn’t pull punches, he didn’t mollycoddle. He was straightforward and that’s important, especially when it comes to something like a stroke. He was a godsend.”