Working Around the Clot
AAMC stroke patient on road to recovery
Betty Jane Hyers recently had a debilitating stroke. Less than two months later, she visited South Africa, where she rode an elephant and helicoptered over Victoria Falls.
Ms. Hyers said she appreciated the dream vacation even more after her medical scare. “It seems like a miracle that I’m doing so well after such an incredible experience,” she said. “The whole thing is just amazing.”
The excellent outcome came about because soon after the onset of Ms. Hyers’ stroke symptoms, Larry Blum, M.D., an AAMC neurologist, treated her with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a drug that can dissolve the blood clots that cause most strokes and heart attacks. For some patients, tPA can reduce damage to the heart, help minimize the effects of a stroke and even save their lives.
Ms. Hyers had spent the day touring Atlantic City and was back home having dinner at a restaurant with her husband and friends when she began to feel strange, she recalled. “We had just gotten our food and all of a sudden I felt weak. Within minutes one side of my face was paralyzed,” she said. “I told everyone I was okay but they insisted on calling 911.” Within minutes an ambulance arrived to take Ms. Hyers to the Emergency Department at AAMC. During the ride the technicians told her she was having a stroke.
Dr. Blum said that when he saw Ms. Hyers in the ED, he observed symptoms that included slurred speech and a facial droop. “She understood that her condition was serious,” said Dr. Blum. “I told her that we could treat her with clot-busting medication and that she might see results anytime within the next 90 days.”
But within 90 minutes Ms. Hyers made a startling recovery. Her facial paralysis disappeared and she could speak normally. She was able to go home within a few days and has had no residual effects from her stroke. Now she takes medication for high blood pressure and a blood thinner. “Ms. Hyers experience is a real success story, the best case we hope for with tPA treatment,” said Dr. Blum.
“I had absolutely outstanding care at AAMC, from the technicians in the ambulance, the ER staff and Dr. Blum,” said Ms. Hyers. “I must have had some wonderful guardian angels.”
The clot buster tPA is most effective within three hours of the onset of a stroke, so people experiencing symptoms (such as sudden numbness, weakness, dizziness, or difficulties with speech or vision) should seek help immediately. Prompt treatment with tPA can significantly reduce the effects of stroke and possibly prevent permanent disability.
For more information on stroke, vascular and neurological care at AAMC, access www.askAAMC.org or call 443-481-4000 or 1-800-MD NURSE.