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Published on May 17, 2017

This can bring you back from a stroke with no ill effectsstroke-treatment-fast

Ralph Bowen, 74, of Dennis was spending a typical November day in his garage last year, working on various projects, when he suddenly became very weak, fell down and couldn’t get up.

He threw a couple of tools at the garage door to gain his wife’s attention. Their son had to pick Bowen up and carry him to the sofa in the living room.

“It was scary, especially when I couldn’t get up,” said Bowen. He lost feeling in his left hand and arm as well as the left side of his body. His wife, Marilyn, immediately called 911.

After the EMTs took his vital signs and did an assessment, one of them told Bowen they thought he had a stroke.

“I kind of laughed at him and said ‘no way, I work hard, I’m in good health and I watch what I eat.’”

He suffered a second stroke during the ambulance ride to Cape Cod Hospital.

Once he arrived in the emergency room, he was surrounded by physicians and nurses.

“I thought every doctor and nurse in the hospital was in my room,” said Bowen.

Diagnostic Tests and Treatment

An examination of Bowen suggested the stroke diagnosis, and an emergency CT scan ruled out any bleeding into the brain. As a result, Karen Lynch, MD, a neurologist at Cape Cod Hospital, told him they were going to administer the drug designed to break up blood clots, tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) also known as Alteplase.

“She told me that the medication usually makes everything OK and I wouldn’t know I had a stroke,” Bowen said. “Within one hour, I was feeling wonderful, I didn’t feel like I had a stroke and I wanted to go home.”

One out of three patients treated emergently with Alteplase have little to no persistent neurological symptoms following IV Alteplase treatment, according to Michael Markowski, MD, a neurologist at Cape Cod Hospital.

Alteplase is used to treat ischemic strokes, which comprise about 80 percent of all strokes, he added. The drug works by breaking up the clot that is blocking the vessel and cutting off oxygen to the brain.

“Any patient with an acute stroke is a candidate for Alteplase,” Dr. Markowski said. “Patients who are younger than 80 can receive it up to 4-1/2 hours after onset of symptoms while those over 80 have 3 hours.”

“I was right on the borderline at 3 hours and 30 minutes,” said Bowen.

Bowen was admitted to the hospital for three days and was discharged home with a list of restrictions to follow until his post-hospital appointment with Dr. Markowski.

He did not need any rehabilitation and eventually returned to his normal activities.

Changes In Lifestyle

While he thought he was in good health, Bowen admits that he hadn’t actually seen his primary care physician for two years. He was diagnosed with diabetes about 10 years ago and even though he uses insulin to control his blood sugars, he wasn’t checking his levels or his blood pressure.

“My wife kept telling me to go but I had been in the military and only saw a doctor once a year for a checkup. I was always healthy and I didn’t like going to see the doctors.”

The stroke changed his outlook on taking care of himself.

“I check my blood sugars three times a day and my wife checks my blood pressure twice a day,” said Bowen. He sees his primary care physician regularly for exams and bloodwork. He has diabetic neuropathy in both feet and is regularly checked by Dr. Markowski, who he had been seeing before the stroke.

He is back to doing yard work and recently built a pond with a waterfall in the backyard.

Bowen’s advice to others is to have checkups regularly and if you start feeling lightheaded, rest in a safe place. Call 911 and get to the hospital right away.

“They have the testing and equipment to find out if it is a stroke and they can start the tPA quickly,” said Bowen.

“I’m lucky, I am glad to be alive and grateful that I didn’t have another stroke.”

The acronym FAST is a good way to remember symptoms that could indicate a stroke: