FAST Response Leads to Fast Recovery for Stroke Patient Chelsee
Aug 23, 2019 Katie Rosenblum
Chelsee Lowe wasn't expecting to end up in the hospital in February 2018. The first grade teacher was having a conversation with someone when she suddenly felt dizzy.
The person she was talking to noticed Chelsee's speech became slurred and thought she might be having a stroke. Soon after Chelsee lost feeling in her left side.
"I got up and walked a couple hours after having brain surgery."
"I have very few memories of symptoms other than feeling like I needed to get myself onto the ground, and that was the end of my visual memory," says Chelsee, who can recall the sounds of paramedics tending to her while she was in and out of consciousness.
A race against the clock
Chelsee was rushed to the Cedars-Sinai emergency room by ambulance. By this time, her left arm was completely paralyzed. A CT scan revealed she was having an ischemic stroke.
Ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke, accounting for 87% of all strokes.
They happen when blood supply is cut off to part of the brain either by a blood clot blocking the artery or by atherosclerosis, a disease which causes arteries to narrow over time.
Chelsee was given tPA—tissue plasminogen activator—an intravenous drug used to help break up the clot causing the stroke.
Within an hour of arriving at the ER, neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Alexander performed a thrombectomy, a surgical procedure to remove the remainder of the clot.
Time on her side
"When patients have blockage in the artery like this, it's a race against the clock before the damage becomes irreversible," says Dr. Alexander
"Fortunately, in Chelsee's case, we were able to reverse her deficits because she was brought in so quickly."
Shortly following the surgery, she regained her speech and was able to lift her previously paralyzed arm up straight.
And while she had some weakness and fatigue remaining, it didn't take long for Chelsee to get antsy in her recovery room.
"I woke up and didn't really have much memory of what had happened, so it didn't seem that severe to me. I just wanted to get up and walk around," she says.
"So, I got up and walked a couple hours after having brain surgery."
Doctors ran many tests over the coming days trying to pinpoint the cause of the clot. Tests revealed a patent foramen ovale—a small hole in the middle of her heart which may have contributed to it—but nothing more definitive.
For Chelsee, one of the hardest parts of the whole experience has been not knowing the exact cause of her stroke.
"The Cedars-Sinai neurology team has been really thorough and they want to know too, but we may never really know why this happened," Chelsee says.
Before the stroke, she was an otherwise healthy 35-year-old mom who did yoga and hiked regularly.
She suspects high levels of stress from work and her busy lifestyle may have been negatively impacting her overall health.
"It's really hard to not have answers and know for certain what caused this, but moving forward I'm really focused on avoiding certain levels of stress and dealing with stress before it gets worse," she says.
"I also take water with me everywhere and make sure I'm staying hydrated."
She's currently expecting her second daughter with her husband Richard and is looking forward to a new school year.
She's taking one new lesson along with her: "Things like this are good reminders that you need help sometimes and you need to be aware of when you're not taking care of yourself," says Chelsee.
"I'm much more aware of my body and what it needs now."