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Sign of a Stroke

Posted on May 4, 2016 in Stroke

Billboard leads Johnson University EMT to choose Fort Sanders

If it had been anyone else, Perry Morin would’ve been among the first to help. Only this time, he was the one who needed help.

A 52-year-old emergency medical technician who lives on the Johnson University campus where he is safety manager, Morin suddenly found himself on the receiving end of emergency care late one night last August when an ischemic stroke left him in a heap on his bathroom floor.

His entire right side was powerless to move and his speech slurred as his wife, Angie, asked where he wanted the ambulance to take him.

“That billboard popped into my head,” said Perry, referring to the large billboard he had seen on Chapman Highway count-less times last summer. “I don’t remember the exact wording, but it was a Covenant Health and Fort Sanders billboard that said something like, ‘The Region’s No. 1 Stroke Care Facility.’ I don’t know why, but it just popped into my head. So that’s why I chose Fort Sanders.”

Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center was the first in the area to earn an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center Certification by The Joint Commission, a nonprofit organization that accredits and certifies more than 20,500 health care programs in the United States. This “gold-seal” advanced certification means that Fort Sanders is recognized as having the most advanced and effective stroke treatments available.

Today, he’ll tell you that choosing Fort Sanders was one the best decisions of his life. A quick and accurate diagnosis and treatment with the clot-busting drug tPA (tissue Plasminogen Activator) resulted in Perry’s discharge two days later without any impairments.

“They were terrific. They were more than professional,” Perry said of the nursing staff and emergency department physician, Dr. David Bishop. “They recognized what was going on. They assessed me quickly and took care of it. They put me in a CT and figured out that I’d had an ischemic stroke which is treatable with tPA.”

It all began around 11:15 p.m. on Aug. 4, 2015, when Perry was brushing his teeth before bed. “Suddenly, I realized I couldn’t hold my toothbrush very well – it seemed heavy to me,” Perry recounted. “I thought, ‘what is this?! This is really strange.’ I think I may have recognized it was a stroke. That’s when I fell down and slammed into the bathroom door.”

The racket sent the rest of the Morin family scrambling – Angie from the living room, 17-year-old Benjamin from his man cave and 13-year-old Lydia from her bedroom. “I heard a big thud so I walked in and saw Mom had already dialed 911,” said Benjamin. “My sister was upset so I went and tried to calm her down.”

“So I’m just lying on the floor thinking ‘This is weird’ because I was recognizing what was going on,” said Morin. “I was cognizant, I was alert, and I was awake. It didn’t hurt — nothing hurt. I was just lying there and I couldn’t move my right side at all.”

The Seymour Volunteer Fire Department arrived first, followed closely by Rural Metro, one of Perry’s former employers and staffed by a former co-worker. While talking with his former colleague, he overheard another paramedic say that his blood pressure was more than 200 over 100. “I had been taking blood pressure medicine for several years,” he said. “I thought it was under control. Obviously, it wasn’t. At least that day it wasn’t.”

As the EMTs placed him on a stretcher and maneuvered him out of the house into the waiting ambulance, Morin saw other members of Johnson University’s first responder team were also helping. “I would’ve normally responded to myself,” he said with a laugh. “But since I couldn’t, others in our group responded and helped the ambulance crew.”

It was almost midnight when Morin was wheeled into the emergency department at Fort Sanders and taken directly to imaging where a CT scan confirmed Dr. Bishop’s suspicion of a stroke, likely caused by hypertension.

He was given medication to lower his blood pressure, and after receiving Perry’s left-handed authorization, the tPA was administered around 1:30 a.m. Within 20 minutes, Angie could see her husband’s eyes brighten. Within 30 to 45 minutes, Perry was himself again. Two days later, he was discharged after passing all the physical, neurological and speech assessments. Two weeks later, he was back at Johnson University working full-time.

Since that night, Morin has brushed up on signs of a stroke and urges others to do the same. Likewise, he hopes others will follow that other sign’s advice and choose Fort Sanders Stroke Care Center should they need it.