It started with an offer that was just too good to refuse. Arizona truck driver Dave Foster had been hired to haul a load to New Jersey on a snowy week in early February.
“It was military freight going to Fort Dixon right in the middle of a snowstorm,” Foster says. “It paid so good that I had to take it.”
After a stop in White Pine, Tennessee, which included some rest and a morning prayer for protection, Foster was ready to hit the road.
“I got up in the seat and I’ll be daggone, two minutes later my whole right side started going numb,” Foster says. “I just immediately dialed 911 with my left hand – and I’m not left-handed.”
In the few minutes it took for paramedics to arrive on the scene, Foster’s stroke symptoms dissolved and he had feeling in his right side again. Still, he decided it would be worth the time and trouble to get checked out at a hospital.
Foster was taken to Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, the hospital closest to White Pine and a member of the Covenant Health stroke hospital network. After a complete assessment, it was determined Foster needed advanced interventional treatment available at Fort Sanders Regional, the hub of Covenant Health’s network.
“The stroke affected the left side of his brain, and there was a very tight narrowing of the left carotid artery, the smoking gun if you will,” says Afshin Skibba, MD, a Fort Sanders Regional vascular surgeon.
The major blood vessels in the neck, Dr. Skibba explains, supply blood to the neck, face and brain. A plaque blockage in one or both of these arteries means there’s an increased risk of stroke. Removing the blockage can be life-saving.
“A carotid endarterectomy involves opening the neck and then opening the artery, removing the blockage trouble and then repairing the artery with a patch,” Dr. Skibba says. “Mr. Foster spent one night in the hospital and was discharged the following morning.”
Foster’s family had pooled resources so his wife could be at the hospital. The couple remained in the area until Dr. Skibba felt it was safe for his stroke patient to make the long trip home.
“It’s really weird being sick and not feeling good by yourself,” Foster says of being so far from home, “but it was just amazing the way everybody treated me. I felt like I was king of the castle.”
Now in his mountain home, he’s had some time to reflect and realizes how blessed he is, from the level of care he received to the timing of the stroke he had.
“If it had happened five minutes later, I would have been on the road,” Foster says. “I think the good Lord knew exactly what He was doing.”
There’s never a good time or place for a stroke, but if Foster had to have one, he says he’s fortunate it happened near a hospital certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. “Fort Sanders was the best place to be,” he says.