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FAST-thinking co-workers save Bismarck woman
By Inside Medcenter One, Reprinted With Permission

27 October 2010

      “Timing is everything" has taken on new meaning for 56-year-old Arden Boxer of Bismarck.

      At 10 a.m. on May 5, she began taking her statistics final at United Tribes Technical College, where she is both an employee and student. At 10:15 a.m.. her chest began to hurt. Soon, it felt as if someone was squeezing her shoulder, and pain traveled to her left arm. She asked her instructor if she could leave the room.

The affects of a stroke experienced by Arden Boxer, center, were minimized by the fast thinking of two co-workers at United Tribes Technical College, Barbara Schmitt, left, and Charmelle Fuchs. United Tribes News photo Dennis J. Neumann

      She met a co-worker in the hallway and told her about the symptoms. "I thought I was having an anxiety attack and went to finish my test" she said. "The chest pain went away but then my left arm and hand started going numb. I started thinking about stroke."

      Her co-worker had gone to Boxer's boss, Barbara Schmitt, who immediately went to Boxer's class to take her to the hospital.

      Schmitt and campus nurse, Charmelle Fuchs, took Boxer to the Medcenter One Emergency and Trauma Center where she was treated for stroke.

      "My mouth started getting numb, and I began drooling," she said. "I started panicking when I could no longer move my left foot and hand. It was also becoming difficult to speak."

      A stroke occurs when a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain has burst or is blocked by a blood clot. Deprived of oxygen, brain cells begin to die within a few minutes. The part of the body controlled by the damaged section of the brain cannot function properly.

      Stroke risk factors include family history of heart attacks and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Lifestyle factors include smoking, being overweight, lack of physical activity and not drinking enough water.

      Boxer had been a heavy smoker since her teens but hasn't smoked since the day of her stroke" She had no other major risk factors.

      "Time is brain when it comes to stroke," said Dr. Mark Jones, a Medcenter One board-certified neurologist. "Waiting can damage the brain even more. If Ms. Boxer had waited too long, she wouldn't have been able to have a treatment that could make her better."

      Anyone with stroke symptoms should seek emergency care immediately to maximize treatment options, Dr. Jones said. At best, there is a three-hour window from the time stroke symptoms begin for patients to qualify for taking potent clot-busting drugs that can help them recover more fully.

      Thankfully, Boxer arrived in time to take the drug. "The scariest part was how fast the stroke symptoms developed," she said. "I'm thankful the drug prevented the symptoms from worsening. I'm one of the lucky ones who got to the ER in time."

      "Even if the symptoms go away, come in because there is a limited time to determine the cause and treat it to prevent a future stroke," Dr. Jones said. He added that patients should not take aspirin before seeking care because aspirin can worsen bleeding in a patient with a broken blood vessel.

      Boxer spent four days in inpatient rehabilitation – Medcenter One's accredited hospital program devoted to helping patients who have physical or cognitive deficits as the result of an injury or disease – where she progressed from a wheelchair to walking with a cane. She was discharged with weekly outpatient physical therapy sessions and now walks without it.

      "I owe so much to Barb and Charmelle. I'm also grateful for the excellent care I received from doctors, nurses and therapists," Boxer said. "I hope other people can be helped by my story. If you have stroke symptoms, don't wait."

      To learn more about stroke visit the website www.medcenterone.com. Medcenter One also has a stroke and brain injury support group that conducts free monthly meetings for people who have had a stroke or brain injury and their families. The group meets at 4 p.m. on the third Tuesday of each month in the Medcenter One rehabilitation dining room on the sixth floor of the hospital. For more information, contact Mandy Flag 701-323-6696, mflag@mohs.org.

If you have stroke symptoms, think FAST

Remember the acronym FAST to help identify symptoms that may be stroke warning signs:

F  Face: Ask the person to smile. Does the face droop or look uneven?
A  Arm: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does an arm drift or is it numb?
S  Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Does speech sound strange or hard to understand?
T  Time: If the answer is yes to any of the above questions, time is critical. Call 911 immediately.


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