Nina Wilson calls it divine intervention. Her son Mark Wilson calls it a miracle. The medical professionals at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital’s ER might call it all in a day’s work, but whatever you call it, Nina is alive and well and living a normal life after her stroke in June 2019.
It was 7:45 in the morning and a day like any other. Mark was driving his spry, 84-year-old mom from her home in Perryville to SGCMH to have cataract surgery with Dr. Spurrier. They carried on light conversation in the car to pass the time.
Nina remembers getting a little dizzy and seeing double.
‘It looked like two cars were coming toward me,” she said. “I decided to lay my head back and rest my eyes.
After a few minutes Mark asked her if she was ok.
“Her speech was a little slurred, and the closer we got to town, the less responsive she was,” he explained. “The red flags were going up. I sped up and turned my flashers on. When we reached the parking lot, she seemed like herself, until she went to get out of the car. She had trouble with the door handle and couldn’t stand. I essentially carried her in the front door and one of the helpful volunteers at the desk got us a wheelchair. We went straight to the ER and one of the first things they did was take her for a CT scan.”
The scan was inconclusive at this point.
“Mom was talking to the nurses and ER physician, Dr. Sharrock, and kept looking at the clock,” he explained. “She asked why there were two clocks. The more she talked they, as well as myself, could see she was getting worse. I told them there’s something going on—this just isn’t mom. She’s sharp as a tack. She dozed off for a few minutes and when she woke up, she couldn’t move her right side.”
Her symptoms did not escape the ER personnel. Behind the scenes Dr. Sharrock had already been in contact with a neurologist at St. Louis University, and a helicopter had been dispatched to transfer her to St. Clare Hospital in Fenton, a Level I Time Critical Diagnosis STEMI Center and a Level I Stroke Center. They stepped out of the treatment room and Dr. Sharrock told Mark that his mom was having a stroke.
“She said there’s a medicine, tPA, that breaks the blood clot up and she advised me of the side effects,” he explained. “I knew this was something we needed to do, but I had to alert my brother and sisters.”
The stroke drug known as tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator, has been a lightning rod since it was first approved in the United States in 1996. The drug works by dissolving blood clots. That helps to restore blood flow to the brain after a stroke, potentially preventing additional brain cells from dying. The window for its effectiveness is small, so the earlier it can be given the better the outcome.
In Nina’s case, you can’t get much faster than just a few minutes after a stroke. She was well within the “golden hours.”
“They started to give her the injection and I left the room for a few minutes,” he said. “When I came back she was talking normally. This was literally within five minutes from the time they gave her the injection! She could speak again and started to move her arm and leg. Just amazing. It’s a miracle. When they told her she would be taking a helicopter ride, she right away told them she had that helicopter insurance, but she didn’t know where her card was. They told her not to worry, they’ll find her in the system.”
“I called my niece who works in health care in Cape Girardeau and she asked right away if they have the tPA drug here and I said they’ve already given it to her,” he said. “She was kind of surprised the Ste. Gen hospital had it. She said a lot of rural hospitals don’t have it or have the people who are trained to administer it.”
Lucky for Nina and patients like her, the Ste. Genevieve Hospital Emergency Department is a Level III Stroke Center and a Level IV STEMI Center with 24-hour access to stroke neuro-specialists and state of the art technology for consultative and diagnostic services.
That evening a cardiologist at St. Clare had determined her stroke was caused by AFIB, yet her heart was fine and there was no heart damage. In just a couple of days she was discharged and headed to a facility in Cape for rehab. Two weeks later she was home. A 100% recovery, with the addition of a life-long blood-thinner regimen.
As is commonplace, both Nina and her son went through the “what ifs.”
“What if your surgery was scheduled later and I didn’t pick you up until several hours later,” he contemplated. “What if you were in the middle of having the cataract surgery?”
But fate had intervened and Nina was at the right place at the right time.
“I’m just thankful everything turned out like it did, said Nina. “I don’t know how they could have done anything better that day.”
Mark was equally impressed.
“That drug was amazing, and the service was excellent,” he said. “Everyone involved was just terrific and professional on every level. I know there were other patients in the ER, but it sure seemed like everyone was paying close attention to my mom. I told her she better not do that to me again!”