Dec. 17, 2018, began as a normal day for 29-year-old Meghan Thompson of Liberty. This wife and mom of four children owns a cleaning business, Clean and Simple, and had been working extra hours leading up to that day. So when her arm “fell asleep” while cleaning a home and the voices of others sounded cartoonish to her, she attributed it to exhaustion and considered going home. However, her teeth and tongue then became numb. At the moment she realized one side of her face was numb, she called her husband and said she was going to the hospital.

Tests administered upon her arrival at the Liberty Hospital Emergency Department showed Thompson was having a stroke, with a blood clot on one side of her brain. Because Thompson had reacted quickly and sought medical help fast, she was well within the window of time to receive tPA, the clot-busting drug.

“The first thing Meghan did right was to seek help immediately,” said registered nurse Tosha Rains, program manager for stroke and STEMI heart attack at Liberty Hospital. “We were able to use the treatments we have available for stroke because she presented quickly after she began experiencing symptoms.”

Sometimes the blood clots that cause a stroke originate in the heart, so stroke treatment may include a cardiology exam. A cardiologist from Liberty Cardiovascular Specialists determined that a second blood clot that originated in Thompson’s heart traveled to the right side of her brain and caused her to lose speech completely, caused loss of balance, and loss of movement to her arm and to the left side of her face.

“When the team in the ER told me I was having a stroke, I was shocked,” said Thompson. “I thought that stroke was something that happened only to people with previous heart problems or in older people.”

Thompson’s cardiologist at Liberty Hospital explained everyone is born with a hole in the heart called a foramen ovale, located in the upper chambers. But in most people, it closes shortly after birth. However, Thompson’s never closed. After fully recovering from her stroke, thanks to quick medical attention and tPA, Thompson underwent heart surgery and continues to receive stroke follow up care with a neurologist at Liberty Hospital.

“No one expects to have a stroke, so it’s very important that everyone knows signs and symptoms so they can identify stroke in themselves and others, and get help FAST within the window of time for drug therapy and other treatment,” said Rains.

The American Stroke Association reminds people that time equals brain cells lost during a stroke, so BE FAST when it comes to recognizing stroke symptoms and getting help:

  • B — balance loss;
  • E — eyesight changes;
  • F — facial droop or numbness, particularly on one side;
  • A — arm numbness or weakness, particularly on one side;
  • S — speech changes, garbled;
  • T — time is imperative, so don’t wait, get help fast.

Just months after her stroke, Thompson has recovered 90% of her movement and speech. However, she’s still learning to live with her new “normal,” and her outlook on life has changed.

“I want more people to know the risk of stroke, and understand how important it is to listen to their body,” Thompson said. “I don’t know where I would be if I had gone home to rest, instead of seeking medical attention at the ER. Today I am very thankful and very lucky to be where I am!”

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