Penrose-St. Francis RN’s life saved with swift action during stroke
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Survivor Deb Nussdorfer and her husband George Smith, a Penrose Hospital volunteer. Courtesy of Deb Nussdorfer

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For 10 years, Deb Nussdorfer has gone to work at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services as an RN and Magnet Program Director, but she never imagined her employer would one day save her life.

Nussdorfer, 60, had a hip-replacement surgery in January and two weeks later suffered a stroke while recovering in her home. “I was sitting, reading, when suddenly, I just felt funny,” she said. “There was a delay, some kind of disconnect between my brain and my arms and hands – it felt like someone else was moving them. I also had numbness across the lower half of my face.” An RN for more than 35 years, Nussdorfer knew the typical signs of a stroke. “My symptoms were unusual, but I knew it was a neurological event and that I needed to get to the ER immediately.”

When she arrived at St. Francis Medical Center, Nussdorfer underwent an MRI scan, which showed two places of infarction – tissue death due to lack of oxygen from blood flow – in the parietal lobe of her brain. Her symptoms were improving, but what was initially thought to be a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), or a mini stroke, was indeed a full-fledged stroke. The clot dissolved on its own and Nussdorfer has recovered with few residual effects. While she was already proud to be a Penrose-St. Francis employee, she said the level of care she received impressed her even further.

“I was seen immediately,” she said. “Each person followed all of the best practices and did timely procedures. I got education from the minute I walked in to the minute I left.” The stroke management team even followed up with a phone call two days after Nussdorfer was discharged to ensure she was recovering well from hip surgery and the stroke. “I would’ve expected nothing less, that’s what I see all the time. I’m pleased to say I work here,” she said. Penrose-St. Francis 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.

In her recovery, Nussdorfer has been committed to lifestyle changes to minimize her risks of having another stroke, from starting a new wellness plan and losing 25 pounds to paying attention to her family history. “My dad died less than a year ago from a stroke and he’d had one several years before that, so it definitely made me more aware of the risks,” she said. “We do have control over healthy lifestyle changes, and I think especially as women and as a nurse, it’s important not to dismiss symptoms, but to take them seriously and act quickly.”

Pikes Peak Newspapers, Editor

Hannah Blick has lived in the Pikes Peak region for six years. She studied journalism at Kansas State University and enjoys biking, skiing and hiking in the Rockies.

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