When Albert Hempel, 53, woke up on Feb. 27, he felt great and ready to tackle another day working on his family’s ranch near Eldridge, Missouri. As he was getting ready, he noticed a loss of balance but thought sitting down for a moment would resolve the issue. But then his right leg started trembling, followed by his right side going completely numb. Hempel had heard enough radio public service announcements to know he was experiencing a stroke and needed emergency care.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and Hempel is sharing his story to encourage others to act fast when you or someone you know might be having a stroke.
“I had just been thinking about signs of a stroke because my brother and I are our caregivers for our mother,” Hempel said. “So I recognized my symptoms were typical of a stroke, and I knew acting fast was key to decreasing my risk of lasting damage. I think everyone needs to know what a stroke looks like so they don’t delay getting medical care.”
Hempel fell to the ground and used his good side to pull himself to his phone. He called his brother, who rushed over to help, and a nearby friend, who offered to drive him to Lake Regional Hospital, which is a Level II Stroke Center.
A Stroke Is Always an Emergency
A stroke occurs when something blocks the blood supply to part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts. As a result, a stroke starves the brain of the nutrients it needs. When a stroke interrupts blood flow to a particular part of the brain that controls a body function, that part of the body won’t work normally. Stroke is a leading cause of death or serious disability in the United States.
The good news is fast treatment can limit the damage from a stroke and provide a better chance of recovery. Hempel’s stroke was caused by an insufficient blood flow and treated with a clot-busting drug called tPA. His door-to-needle time was 32 minutes, well below the national benchmark of 60 minutes.
“After arriving at Lake Regional, it all happened quickly,” Hempel said. “I woke up in the ICU to A-1 care. My nurses in ICU and PCU regularly checked on me and came running if I needed anything.”
Hempel was released from the hospital three days later.
Recovery and Rehabilitation
Recovery time after a stroke varies; it can take weeks, months or even years. For many stroke patients, rehabilitation therapies, which can include physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy, can help. Rehabilitation begins in the hospital as soon as possible following a stroke and continues, as necessary, after a patient’s release.
“I felt grateful to be able to walk out of the hospital with a cane,” Hempel said. “While I was an inpatient, they taught me rehabilitation exercises to do at home. Luckily, I didn’t need any home services. My strength is mostly back, but I’m not up to full endurance yet.”
Hempel hopes he can inspire others not to lose hope as they recover from a stroke.
“I know it can be discouraging when you don’t see quick progress, but you have to stay determined,” Hempel said. “Keep up with your therapies, and follow your exercises.”
To learn more about stroke care at Lake Regional, visit lakeregional.com/stroke.