A widow with no children, Linda has volunteered for Senior Concerns’ Bargain Boutique and Thrift Shop for the past three years. On Jan. 17, her life changed dramatically.
Scheduled to work at the boutique that day, Linda did not show up for her shift. Concerned, Karina, the boutique manager, called Linda at home. There was no answer.
Karina began to worry. She discussed the situation with boutique volunteer and Senior Concerns’ staff member Denise. They knew Linda lived alone with her St. Bernard, Cooper. Both women called and called but got no response.
After almost two days of trying, they found one of Linda’s neighbors, who had a key to her house. The neighbor discovered Linda unconscious on the floor with her dog by her side. Even after two days Cooper hadn’t moved—not even to eat a bagel that was within his reach.
Linda was rushed to Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center, where it was discovered she’d had a stroke from a non-operable brain bleed. As Linda lay in the emergency room, Karina and Denise rushed to her side.
After a short time, Linda regained consciousness, but she could not speak. Denise stepped in to answer whatever questions she could for the medical staff.
Meanwhile, Karina took Cooper home to care for him. Whether through loneliness or some underlying medical condition, Cooper died a few days later. It was heartbreaking.
Still in the hospital, Linda was struggling, but as her condition improved, she moved: from the emergency room, to intensive care, to a regular patient room, to East Campus acute rehab, to a skilled nursing facility.
Every step of the way, Denise was there to help. When Linda’s condition improved, she made Denise her medical power of attorney.
Four months later, Linda has just returned home. She is receiving in-home nursing care, and physical and occupational therapy.
Linda’s prognosis is good, in part because she was taken to Ventura County’s first Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center— Los Robles Hospital. Its highly specialized team of neurologists, neurosurgeons and other professionals has received the highest accreditation for competence in the treatment of acute strokes.
Besides working in the hospital, the stroke team, headed by Dr. Asif Taqi, Dr. Ajeet Sodhi and Dr. Martin Mortazavi, is training EMS first-responders to diagnose stroke patients and start treating them in the field, as well as alerting the stroke team when they are on the way to the emergency room, saving precious minutes or hours in caring for the patient suffering from a stroke.
May was National Stroke Awareness Month, an observance that highlights the importance of knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke and encouraging everyone to act FAST if someone is having a stroke. FAST is an acronym for the symptoms of stroke and what to do if the symptoms are observed: face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty—time to call 911.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of severe disability. In the United States, one person dies from stroke every four minutes, and 60 percent of those that die from stroke are women.
Stroke is preventable and largely treatable. Being physically active, eating more fruits and vegetables and foods low in sodium and salt, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking can reduce the chances of having a stroke.
Properly managing medical conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease and diabetes can also lower the risk.
Linda is fortunate. Besides having a Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center in her community, her friend Denise was able to step in and advocate for her, becoming her “family caregiver” over these last four months.
Linda was happy for me to share her story. She wants others to be aware of the signs of a stroke and take action to prevent one.