Stroke survivor was in the right place, at the right time

By Jade Waddy

Brenda Erickson awoke the morning of Feb. 24, 2018 anticipating she would be heading home after a spending the night under observation at the Emergency Center at Memorial Hermann Memorial City Medical Center.

But as she got dressed, she began to feel dizzy.

It would be three more weeks before she went home.

Erickson vividly remembers the day before visiting the emergency room.

“Things were very stressful with family challenges and work stress,” Erickson said. “I remember I was working on a real estate deal when all of a sudden my words were not coming out correctly.” Shortly after, things were fine. However, for the next hour she would continue to struggle with her words.

“My husband John wanted to call 911 but I initially did not want them to come,” Erickson said. “I finally agreed and even when they arrived the symptoms I was experiencing stopped.”

The paramedics decided to take Erickson to Memorial Hermann Memorial City as precaution. Once she arrived, ER nurses and physicians recommended she stay the night under observation, in the event something happened.

Right place, right time

As Erickson began to feel dizzy on the morning of Feb. 24, the nurses called a Code Blue. She was having a stroke. Doctors quickly administered tPA, a medication that dissolves blood clots that was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997 to treat ischemic-type strokes.

According to the American Stroke Association, eight out of 10 brain attacks/strokes are ischemic, involving a blockage of blood flow in the brain. When given promptly, one out of every three patients who receives tPA medication experiences major improvement in his or her stroke symptoms, or the symptoms sometimes resolve altogether.

Erickson would spend one week in the Intensive Care Unit. “I’m so grateful I was already at the hospital,” Erickson said.

Once discharged, Erickson was transferred to TIRR Memorial Hermann Inpatient Rehabilitation – Greater Heights for intense, daily physical, occupational and speech therapy.

Erickson was totally paralyzed on her right side as a result of the stroke.

While a patient, Erickson was seen by Dr. Richard Huang, physical medicine and rehabilitation physician at the acute inpatient rehabilitation unit at TIRR Memorial Hermann Greater Heights. “It’s very important when someone experiences a stroke, if they have had significant functional deficits limiting their ability to return home safely, to get them into an intensive, comprehensive inpatient rehabilitation program as soon as possible if they are able to participate in one,” Huang said. “We focus on re-educating the brain to restore normal body movements by strengthening weak muscles and fixing abnormal body movement patterns that may occur after a stroke, all in an effort to improve functional mobility and self-care skills such as eating, grooming, dressing, toileting, and showering.”

Erickson participated in a variety of therapies, including electrical stimulation to help with ankle motion during walking, swallowing exercises to ensure she was able to tolerate solid foods, and exercises and stretches focused on treatment of spasticity and to improve her range of motion.

Erickson spent 13 days in inpatient rehabilitation before she was discharged home.

Making a lifestyle change

“Prior to the stroke, I did not exercise much and I had not been taking care of myself like I should have,” Erickson said.

Today, Erickson, a long-time smoker, has quit smoking, eats healthy meals, works out regularly at a local gym and meets once a week with her trainer and can now walk a mile. In addition, Erickson and her husband of 24 years continue to play in a blues band.

After her discharge, Erickson began attending the Stroke Support Group at Memorial Hermann Greater Heights Hospital, which she says has been instrumental in getting her through her journey as a stroke survivor.

“I can’t say enough how much family support, friends support and prayers have helped me,” Erickson said. “It can be very depressing and frustrating after having a stroke and there are times you just don’t want to do anything, but keep going because anything is possible.”

To learn more about stroke care visit here.

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