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Time is brain

May is stroke awareness month and Jim Ackley is the perfect example of what to do when experiencing a stroke.


by: PROVIDENCE HOSPITAL - Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center is one of the hospitals in the Providence Brain and Spine Institute's telestroke network.When Jim Ackley of Mulino felt his left arm, leg and side of his face go weak, and his speech slurred, he recognized the symptoms right away as those of a stroke. Jim takes care of his 100-year-old mother and hopped on one foot to activate her medical alarm button before he collapsed on the floor.

“I was coming out of the kitchen, and I had just given my mom some fresh-made juice, when it felt like my left foot was nailed to the floor,” Ackley said. “And then I realized my arm wouldn’t move. Then I realized I was talking out of the side of mouth and my speech was slurred. So I knew it was a stroke, I’d seen enough on TV, so as I started yelling at Mom, I hopped on one foot 25 feet to hit my mom’s Rescue Alert button on the table, and then I took a bad tumble. Being half paralyzed feels like 90 percent paralyzed, and I don’t think I could have dialed 911 on the phone.”

Molalla Fire District paramedics responded to his home and transported Jim to Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center in Oregon City.

Michael Herndon, M.D., the attending emergency physician, saw Jim immediately upon his arrival.

Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center is one of the hospitals in the Providence Brain and Spine Institute’s telestroke network. Through the telestroke robot, Dr. Herndon connected with Nicholas Okon, M.D., Providence Neurological Specialties. Dr. Okon was able to talk directly with Jim, review his records and test results, and with Dr. Herndon they determined that Jim was a good candidate for t-PA, a medication used to dissolve the blood clot in Jim’s brain causing the stroke.

“I was about the last person anyone would have thought I’d have a stroke a lot of my friends said they couldn’t believe,” Ackley said.

When someone is experiencing stroke, time is brain. For Jim, t-PA was administered 31 minutes after he arrived at the hospital, well under the 60 minute guidelines for treatment.

When Jim gained consciousness, he said he did not realize he was speaking to a robot.

“I was lying in the bed with people on either side of me, and they put a monitor screen in front of me, and I was in communication with my neurosurgeon,” he said. “I knew he was getting my vitals, but didn’t realize it was through a robot.”

Almost immediately, Ackley began to feel better. He was admitted to the hospital for observation on a Sunday afternoon and discharged Tuesday morning. Ackley went from one to another physical therapy appointment to learn strength building exercises which he continued at home.

Ackley, 63, is a retired West Linn High School music teacher. “When the stroke hit, I had to talk through one side of my mouth because my body was dead on one side,” he said. “But being a music teacher, I was talking clearly enough to be understood and they could understand me.”

He knew from stroke awareness campaigns and watching fact-based medical shows on television the symptoms of stroke. “Everyone did such a good job taking care of me,” Ackley said. “My symptoms went away so quickly and I can’t thank enough the Molalla Fire Department and the caregivers at Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center.”

Ackley said his quick recovery felt like a miracle.

“It happened around 1 o’clock and by 4 o’clock, I started feeling something on that side, and I could move my middle two fingers,” he said. “A nurse watched open-mouthed and I just bloomed -- my fingers moved, then my hand and arm, and then my toes followed, and then it all started working. They had me do the smile test and my face started coming back. I was gone for about three hours, and then I bloomed. It was kind of a miracle.”