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Subtle Signs

Posted on April 20, 2017 in Patient Stories

     There was nothing unusual about that Wednesday in March. It was a typical workday for Karen Russell. There was no indication that anything extraordinary was about to happen, and certainly no indication that she was about to have a stroke.
     Russell, 62, processes data at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center, with the end goal of using the results to ensure quality care and patient safety. As she wrapped up her duties at the end of her day, she had no idea that she would soon be on the receiving end of that quality care.
     On the drive home from work that Wednesday in March, Russell began to experience numbness in her mouth. The possibility of a stroke never entered her mind, and her first thought was that it must have been the result of something she ate.
     “I thought I was having an allergic reaction, Russell says. “It was so subtle I could explain it away.”
     It wasn’t until early the next morning in the shower that Russell began to realize something could be so wrong that it would require medical attention.
     “It dawned on me that I couldn’t feel anything on my right side,” Russell says. “I couldn’t feel my toes, my leg was numb, and I decided I might be having a stroke.”
     She informed her husband that she was going to stop by the emergency department at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center on her way to the office. Her husband wisely insisted that he take the wheel.   
     The minute she came into the emergency department and explained she was there because of stroke symptoms, things got serious, and the team went into action.
     “As soon as I said it, there was a wheelchair behind me, and then everything happened so fast,” Russell says. “I just put myself in their hands, and I felt safe.”
     Screenings and tests were conducted revealing high blood pressure and evidence of a stroke. It had been 16 hours since Russell’s first symptoms, so she had already passed the window for standard emergency stroke treatment.
     But in the limited period of time she was there, Russell felt well informed, and completely cared for as a stroke patient. “They told me what it was, where it was, and I had a plan of care,” Russell says.
     That plan of care got Russell on the road to recovery, and she was able to return to work the following Monday, in the place where she says she’s most happy in life.
     “This is my hospital, and I love it,” Russell says. “I’ve been here 33 years, and I feel like I own part of it. This is not only my choice of employment, this is my choice of healthcare, too.”
     Fort Sanders Regional has been certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission and the American Heart/Stroke Association, the largest independent healthcare evaluation system in the nation.
     The certification recognizes hospitals that meet high standards in treating the most complex stroke cases with advanced imaging, personnel trained in vascular neurology, neurosurgery and endovascular procedures, availability of personnel and facilities around the clock, and both experience and expertise treating stroke patients.
      To learn more about Fort Sanders Regional’s certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, signs of a stroke, and an online checklist to find out your level of stroke risk, visit

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