Walking his dogs through Dublin Park is a daily morning routine for Norman Heimer. During a typical morning walk in March 2015, he felt a tingling in his left arm, but it went away and he didn’t think any more about it.
A bit later the leash dropped from his hand and as he bent to pick it up, Heimer stumbled into a snow bank.
“A gentleman who was walking by stopped to ask if I was alright,” Heimer said. “I told him I was fine, and he said ‘no, I don’t think you are,’ and immediately called 9-1-1.”
Emergency Response Services was there within five minutes and Heimer was at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services about five minutes after that, while a lady who was also walking through the park watched his dogs. Penrose-St. Francis Health Services provides 24/7 advanced stroke treatment and was named a certified Advanced Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. Penrose-St. Francis is part of Centura Health, the region’s leading healthcare network. Every stroke is an emergency and every minute counts. Because a stroke can damage brain tissue, calling 9-1-1 as soon as possible is imperative.
“I’m very fortunate that people who lived in the neighborhood, that did not know me, were responsible for getting me to the hospital for treatment so quickly,” Heimer said.
A stroke team was waiting when he arrived at Penrose Hospital and they quickly discovered a blood clot in Heimer‘s central cerebral artery.
“They gave me two choices; either insert a catheter up through my leg, or inject me with T-PA, which they said, will either fix you or you could die,” he said. “I told them ‘T-PA sounds like a good option to me, let’s do that.’”
T-PA, or Tissue Plasminogen Activator, is an enzyme found naturally in the body that dissolves clots. Studies show that patients who receive T-PA within 3 hours of onset of stroke symptoms were 33 percent more likely to recover from their stroke with little or no disability after a few months.
“They kept me in CCU overnight to keep an eye on me and a CT scan showed the clot was breaking up,” Heimer said. “After one more night in a regular hospital room, the on-call resident told me to count backwards from 100 by 7’s. I got to about 50-something and he said I was fine and discharged me.”
Within a week of suffering a stroke, Heimer says he was back to doing normal, everyday things.
“I heard that 97 percent of folks who have that stroke end up in a wheelchair and assisted living,” he said.
A short time later, Heimer and his wife were visiting their son in North Carolina, who is a physician.
“As we were walking on the beach my son noticed I didn’t have any problems in the sand and he agreed I was probably fine.”