Avera Medical Minute: Noticing the signs of a stroke early on

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Katie MacLeod was visiting family in Pierre when she bent down to grab her purse; she knew something was wrong.

"So, I knew immediately I was having a stroke," she said. "And they called the EMTs, and I went to the hospital in Pierre, and they Medevaced me here to Sioux Falls."

She was 92 years old at the time she suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, which meant an artery began to bleed in her brain.

"They had the blood pressure cuff on and were checking my vital signs and just flew me over here," she said. "I had good care; they knew what they were doing."

There are two different types of strokes - Hemorrhagic and Ischemic (which is a loss of blood to the brain). Both affect the body in similar ways by causing damage to the brain. Which means time is of the essence if you experience symptoms of a stroke, which are: sudden numbness, confusion, trouble seeing, trouble walking, and a severe headache. If you experience these symptoms, it is essential to call 911.

"We have medications that break clots if clots are what's causing the stroke," Dr. Adil Shaikh, an Avera physiatrist and physical medicine rehab physician, said. "And we have interventions that can go inside the vessels and remove the clots, that can help with brain recovery and avoid further damage from the stroke."

With Katie noticing the signs of a stroke early on, she is now on the road to recovery.

"At this point, Katie is here with her niece, and we're working on making her more and more independent," Taryn Peterson, an Avera physical therapist, said. "Our goal for everybody on this unit is is to either go home along or with family. And we would love to see Katie go home."

For rehab, they focus on both physical and speech therapy throughout the day since strokes cause issues for one side of the body therapists to check to see where the weakness is whether that would be hands, arms, or legs.

A team of doctors works with patients to create a new "normal" for those who suffered a stroke. And for Katie therapy is just one hurdle to jump before returning to her home state of Alaska.

"The occupational therapy and the physical therapy are sometimes a little tough, but it's to help me get better so I can get back home," she said.

She continues to show her strength throughout therapy, always with a smile on her face. Her end goal has and will still be heading back. But, that doesn't mean she won't take the time to enjoy the care she has received along the way.

"Yeah, but they're special, it's not in the money for them," she said.

Next month is National Stroke Awareness Month, to bring awareness and reduce the incidences of stroke in the United States.