COLORADO SPRINGS – Bob Waddell has much to be thankful for this year. Just four months ago, Bob had a massive stroke that could have easily killed him. As a civil engineer, deficits from a stroke would have been devastating. But Bob had a few things working in his favor when things began to go wrong on July 16th, 2018, when he was out in his back yard pulling weeds.
First, he knew what to do: Call 9-1-1. Second, it just so happened that a specialized stroke treatment unit that’s part of a national study was in town and able to render treatment right at Bob’s home.
Today, Bob is back at work full time and taking on new projects. “I’m able to do my job again, and it’s not an easy, simple job. My brain is my most valuable organ. It was rather terrifying and concerning when I realized I was having a stroke, what kind of life I might have.”
UCHealth’s Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit, which splits its time between Colorado Springs and Aurora, is the only one of its kind in the Rocky Mountain Region and is one of just five units in the United States currently involved in a national stroke study, along with Houston, Memphis, New York (Columbia and Cornell) and UCLA.
Bob remembers, “I was sitting on the edge of my deck hosing off my shoes, next thing you know I’m laying on the ground. I’m laying there aware of my situation and thinking why can’t I get up? I was laying in my backyard helpless, crying out for help to my neighbors hoping someone would hear me.”
When his calls went unanswered, he was able to pull his cell phone from his pocket with one hand and call his next door neighbor. His neighbor Pat answered, but hewas in Castle Rock at the time, but said he would send someone to help, and hung up.
No sooner had he hung up, Pat sent a text message to Bob. “He texted me after the phone call and says, ‘Bob have you been hitting the wine this morning already?’ I texted back ‘Why?’ and he said ‘Well your speech is slurred.’ That’s when it me, andI thought ‘oh my God, I’m having a stroke and time is critical’.”
Bob is a geotechnical engineer by trade. Through the years of working on remote drilling rigs and heavy construction sites, he has had first-aid training that thankfully included knowing the signs of a stroke – BE FAST.
B – BALANCE
E – EYESIGHT
F – FACIAL DROOPING
A – ARM WEAKNESS
S – SLURRED SPEECH
T – TIME TO CALL 9-1-1
With the one hand that still functioned, Bob immediately called 9-1-1 telling them he was having a stroke. Bob says the ability to call and text his neighbor with his one good hand and then call 9-1-1 was the difference between life and death.
“If I hadn’t had my cell phone with me I probably wouldn’t be here today, I’m pretty convinced. I would have laid there and nobody was coming to help.”
After Bob made the call to 9-1-1, he was then left waiting, knowing what was happening to him – that his brain was dying.
“It was a terrifying ordeal to lay there. The first thing going through my mind knowing how devastating strokes can be was: Will I ever be able to go back to work?”
Then as precious minutes passed, his thoughts turned to survival.
But help was on the way in the way. EMS had been dispatched, along with UCHealth’s Mobile Stroke Unit. Lying there in his garden he finally heard the sound he was waiting for. “Sirens can be a terrifying sound, but as I’m laying there I heard the siren – and it was actually a relief. I thought finally help is here.”
While parked on the street just steps fromBob’s front door, the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit performed a CT scan on scene and teleconferenced in a neurologist to go over the results. Bob’s stroke was quickly diagnosed and scored while he was in the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit (MSTU).
Kirstin Buchanan, a registered nurse on the MSTU, was on the unit when the callcame. Kirstin explains, “We work with the NIH, the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale. It’s a scale from zero to 40. Anything over 6 on the NIH scale is considered a large vessel occlusion, and Bob was a 16, the highest score I have seen on this unit.”
As part of the national study, Kirstin will track each patient the unit responds to for a year. She has treated strokes with a lower NIH score, where patients have not had the same positive outcome as Bob.
Bob says, “What an amazing piece of equipment. It has a video link to the hospital right there, the neurologist is looking at my imaging in real time and diagnosing the stroke as a blockage as opposed to a hemorrhage in the brain. That diagnosis allowed them to give the clot-busting drug tPA right there on board.”
This holiday season, Bob is thankful for many things including something new: the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit. “I’m so lucky that they were in town that day, I know it’s shared between Colorado Springs and Aurora so it’s not always here.”
Bob received was taken to UCHealth Memorial Central Hospital where he received further care. He was back at work 6 weeks after his stroke with only some numbness in his left hand.
In our next story I will walk you through Bob’s care at Memorial and the role the MSTU played.
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