Awareness Key to Stroke Survival 

Apr 17

Letha Bond knew the combination of a tingling hand, headache and speech issues could add up to a stroke when she faced these symptoms in October 2011.

"She knows the symptoms because of what the doctor told her to look for and what I tell her to look for, as she has been a heart patient," says Flossie Bond, Letha's daughter and caregiver.

This awareness prompted the 79-year-old Gary resident to seek help immediately and she was able to arrive at Methodist Hospitals' Northlake campus within an hour with assistance from her son, Gary Police Detective James Bond.

"Letha was having problems speaking and also having movement issues on the right side when she arrived at the hospital," says Sherry Mosier, Methodist Hospitals' stroke care coordinator.

Tests determined Letha was suffering from an ischemic stroke, where a clot was blocking blood flow to her brain.

Dr. Mayumi Oka, neurointerventional radiologist at Methodist Hospitals, says treatment includes two courses of action, depending on the patient's own unique health history and issues, symptoms and timeframe of arriving at the hospital. "If a patient can come in within four-and-a-half hours of symptoms, an IV of t-PA [tissue plasminogen activator] can be administered in hopes of breaking up the clot and opening up the vessel," Dr. Oka says. "With endovascular treatment of a stroke, we go in with the same medicine directly to where the clot is and administer small amounts of t-PA into the clot. We can do this up to eight hours of the onset of symptoms."

While Letha arrived quickly at the hospital, she was on blood thinner Coumadin for an irregular heartbeat. Doctors determined that there would be a risk of complications if an IV dose of t-PA was administered to Letha. She was transferred to the hospital's Southlake campus for the intervention method of treatment. "Through a catheter in her groin, I injected a little t-PA directly into the clot and was able to suction out the clot and leave the vessel clear," Dr. Oka says.

"The next day, she was talking and back to her normal self," Flossie says.

A cook until she retired, Letha has confronted health challenges over the years including a heart attack, two bouts of colon cancer and breast cancer. She also has helped family members face their own health issues, including her husband, Walter, and her son, Larry, who both died of cancer.

"She brought my brother and dad home and took care of them until they passed away," Flossie says. "When she has surgeries, she prays and puts it all in God's hands and the doctor's hands. She doesn't have stress or worry."

Flossie believes her mom's "spunk" has kept her strong and the family is planning a big celebration for her 80th birthday on June 10. The family marks her birthdays in a greater fashion every five years.

The birthday events usually include more than 300 people as Letha has seventeen children of her own and eight adopted children as well as 125 grandchildren and 135 great-grandchildren. "My mom adopted her sister's kids when she died of breast cancer," Flossie says.

Letha says she is a family person who believes family members should be close and when it comes down to it, they will all come together despite the ups and downs of life. "She loves her kids to death—every one of them," Flossie says. "She takes care of everyone—that's what she does."

Mosier says Letha's knowledge of symptoms and quick action are vital aspects of stroke awareness. "We need to educate the community and make sure everyone knows what stroke symptoms are and when to come in to the hospital," she says. "Awareness is key and education on risk factors. If you can control chronic illnesses, that can decrease strokes from occurring. That's why we do monthly screenings at the hospitals."

Mosier says the easiest way to remind the community about strokes is: ACT FAST (face, arms, speech, time).

"If someone has facial weakness, arm weakness or speech difficulties, it is time," she says. "This might be a stroke and the individual needs to get somewhere as quickly as possible."

Courtesy of The Times

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