A New Beginning

WellStar North Fulton Hospital’s stroke protocols and procedures helped save patient’s life

Laura Maddox never imagined a fun night of poker and dinner with her fiancée and friends will end abruptly when she started showing signs of a stroke.

She had a healthy lifestyle, walking three to five miles a day almost every day, eating a balanced diet and had no known issues with her blood pressure.

“Things were wonderful. I didn’t even add salt to my food! That stroke came out of nowhere,” said Laura.

But that night, in September of 2015, everything changed. She stood up to go to the restroom and she started vomiting. “I felt that my legs wouldn’t hold me anymore. I remember seeing the people from the ambulance coming in and the smell of coffee grains. Four days later I woke up in the hospital,” she recalled.

Laura had a hemorrhagic stroke. This occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures, causing bleeding into or around the brain, explained Edna Kennedy MSN, RN, stroke coordinator for WellStar North Fulton Hospital, where Laura was brought in the day of her stroke.

WellStar North Fulton Hospital is a Certified Primary Stroke Center and has in place protocols and processes that set standards to bring the best outcomes for patients suffering a stroke. “We are proud to deliver specialized care and are consistently achieving the goals and recommendations established by the Joint Commission and the American Heart Association (AHA) for standardized and evidenced based stroke care,” said Kennedy.

When a patient arrives with stroke symptoms, they’re taken immediately to the CT Scan—a special type of X-ray test that produces cross-sectional images of the body using X-rays and a computer—to determine what kind of stroke they have and how to treat it.

In Laura’s case, the right course of treatment was to decrease her blood pressure, bringing it down to the recommended guidelines by the AHA. Her hemorrhage was small and she didn’t need an emergency procedure. However, she had to be monitored closely for any neurological deterioration in the Neuro-intensive Care Unit. After her blood pressure was stabilized and she was out of imminent danger, her road to recovery began.

“When you wake up and hear the words brain bleed, that scares you. But I figured if I could hear and see the doctors, I was going to be okay. My main concern was if I was going to be able to see my family again and communicate with them. And that became my main goal,” said Laura.

Back to basics

By the time she got to the Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, she was unable to walk, her speech was slurred and she had difficulty swallowing.

“The Inpatient Rehab staff was great. They would come in every day and explained why they were doing what they were doing and helped me all the way. I’m not going to lie. It was tough. It was almost like going back to being an infant again,” she recalled.

“I had to learn to chew and swallow. I had to learn to crawl before I could get up and walk. These are things people don’t think about. A stroke is a life altering issue,” said Laura.

Besides going back home to her family, Laura also wanted to recover to marry her fiancé. “He was the most wonderful caregiver I could ask for. He was there with me all the time and I wanted to be able to stand up next to him and say what I wanted to say,” she said.
Six months after she left the hospital they got married and it was just like she imagined. She stood next to him and said her vows in a very private ceremony.

“He taught me so much. He helped me relearn how to drive. I know it was scary for him. It was like he had become my dad all over again,” Laura said.

Before she left the hospital, Laura got involved in the stroke support group and has been a regular participant ever since. She also was trained to become a peer visitor to help others who have been through similar experiences.

Laura credits much of her recovery to the care she received at WellStar North Fulton. “Those people at the hospital, they’re like my family. As much as I wanted to go back home and be with my family, I didn’t want to leave them. It wasn’t just the physical stuff. They helped me immensely with my emotional part.”

One of the greatest lessons Laura said she has learned is to take one day at a time. Graduations, marriages and grandchildren have brought joy after her stroke and she continues to live with a positive attitude.

“I can look forward to the next months. It’s not about what happened to me. It’s about what is going to happen next and how you pull yourself out,” she said.