Boone’s stroke center is saving lives

Peggy Allen

Peggy Allen is checked by Justin Malone, MD.

In early February, Peggy Allen stood at the counter at Wendy’s restaurant in Jefferson City. As she ordered her lunch, she knew what she wanted in her mind, but the words just would not come out right.

“I was trying to say ‘medium Diet Coke’ and I couldn’t say it plainly,” said Peggy, 65, of Holts Summit.

With a history of strokes in her family, Peggy’s slurred speaking set off alarms for her husband, Clayton. Moments later, Clayton noticed the left side of Peggy’s face drooping and saw her beginning to lose her balance.

He knew then his wife was having a stroke.

A Wendy’s staff member dialed 911, emergency responders arrived at the restaurant and soon Clayton was faced with the decision of where to send his wife for treatment. He took the advice of the ambulance responders who recommended bypassing local hospitals and going 30 miles north to Boone Hospital Center in Columbia, the only facility in the area with a recognized stroke center.

At Boone Hospital, the stroke team was activated and successfully removed Peggy’s blockage. Less than two weeks later, Peggy was released from the hospital walking, talking and ready to return to her normal life.

Faced with potential paralysis and other serious stroke effects, Peggy gave credit to Boone Hospital’s stroke program for her amazing recovery.

“Everyone here has just been excellent. All the nurses and all the therapists have been very kind and very helpful,” she said. “I would recommend it, and I would come back.”

In stroke cases like Peggy Allen’s, the key to survival and recovery is getting help quickly. One saying used by stroke caregivers is “time is brain.” It is estimated that 2 million brain cells are lost for every minute that treatment is delayed and a pea-sized section of brain tissue can die every 12 minutes the stroke goes untreated.

Helping treat stroke victims more quickly is one reason Boone Hospital Center worked to become Mid- Missouri’s only certified stroke center. In 2009, the Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers awarded Boone Hospital the Gold Seal of Approval.

“We wanted to make sure that nobody has to leave central Missouri for stroke care,” said Stacey Jett, Stroke Center Coordinator.

Having a certified stroke center in the middle of the state is already making a huge difference for Peggy Allen and other stroke patients in the area. One is Debbie Dunnavant, of Jefferson City, who suffered a stroke on Sept. 3, 2009.

It was 4:30 a.m. when Debbie awoke with a loud hum inside her head.

As a 42 year old with no history of medical problems, Debbie didn’t know what the humming sound meant.

But when her husband saw her losing her speech, having double vision and experiencing tingling and paralysis on her left side, he immediately knew it was serious.

“He could tell right away that I was having a stroke,” Debbie said.

Similar to Peggy’s case, the ambulance responders advised that Debbie be taken to Boone Hospital Center.

At the hospital, Debbie’s condition worsened. With her speech very slurred, she attempted to communicate with her daughter using a pen and paper.

“I knew what I wanted to write but my hand couldn’t make the shape of the letter,” she said. “She showed me later and said, ‘Mom, this is what you wrote.’”

It was scribbles.

After tests confirmed that Debbie had a clot in her brain stem, doctors performed a procedure to go into her artery, where they used a clot-busting drug to free the blockage.

Debbie said the relief was almost immediate, as she began to regain feeling on her left side and could move and speak better. She was released in a matter of days. When a second clot developed behind her eye the next week, she returned to Boone for one more week of more treatment.

Today, Debbie is back to her old life, with only slight side effects from the strokes that could have claimed her life.

Similar to Peggy’s experience, Debbie said she was very impressed with the exceptional care she received at Boone Hospital. She said she is thankful for Boone Hospital’s stroke program, as it very well may be the reason she is still here to do the little things that make her happy, such as take care of her grandkids.

“I’ve been told many times by some of the doctors that the type of stroke I had is potentially fatal,” she said. “I think that if I would not have gotten the care as quickly, I would have been paralyzed, or it would have killed me.”

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