It was a Wednesday morning, Summer 2012. Beatriz Jaramillo, now 60, was working out with her personal trainer, when suddenly, her head fell to the right and she felt very tired. Thinking it was probably just low blood sugar, her trainer ran to get her juice; yet, within a short time, Beatriz's face started to droop on one side, she couldn't move her right side, saliva came out of her mouth, and she couldn't talk. She immediately suspected she was having a stroke.
Beatriz's trainer called an ambulance and soon she was on her way to Holy Name Medical Center, which was not far from her gym. "It was so surreal," recalls Beatriz, who lives in Cliffside Park. "I could hear but not speak while in that ambulance. I felt like I was in a movie."
Immediately upon her arrival at Holy Name, a specialized team of physicians and nurses assembled around her. Within minutes, she was given a CT scan to determine what kind of stroke she was having. Speed was of utmost importance, as timely intervention is the best defense against any long-term effects.
Within a few hours, Beatriz was able to move her right foot, and then her right leg. Later in the day, she was taken to the ICU and by 6:00 that evening, she was almost entirely functional and surprisingly hungry (she fondly remembers the steak dinner and cheesecake dessert). She had to stay in bed for the next 24 hours, after which she was transferred to Holy Name's award-winning inpatient stroke unit, where the staff is specially-trained in stroke diagnosis and treatment. Ten days later, she was released from the hospital.
Shortly thereafter, Beatriz was back to work as an executive for a health insurance company, and enjoying her beloved exercise routine. She has had no long-term effects from her stroke, other than a new way of looking at life.
"You only have one life," says Beatriz, whose hobbies include travel (she recently visited Japan), cooking, tennis and shopping. "I don't get upset or excited about things the way I used to before the stroke happened. I'm still working like a maniac, but I'm a calmer person now. And of course, I am very grateful."
Beatriz is very thankful to the doctors, nurses and staff at Holy Name for all they did. "I am so appreciative of their quick response, which made all the difference for me in the long-term. The ER staff was nice and caring, the ICU nurses were lovely, just lovely. And the staff on the floor of the stroke unit were very helpful and constantly checking on me."
Caring is often found in the details, and Beatriz recalls them well. In particular, "I will always remember the beautiful stained-glass windows that I saw above me on the ceiling as I was being wheeled on a stretcher to the ER. At Holy Name, they've really thought of everything."
As Beatriz now knows - and wants everyone to know - when it comes to having a stroke, speed in getting the right care can make all the difference. Donna Stringer, RN, Holy Name's Stroke Program Coordinator, emphasizes, "The first 60 minutes are critical when a stroke strikes. The sooner you get to the hospital when you see the first symptoms, the less your chance of permanent disability. The goal is to administer tPA within 60 minutes of arrival - and our average time here at Holy Name is 40 minutes. tPA has proven so beneficial to so many people, yet there's only a treatment window of 4½ hours from the time the patient was last known to be at his or her normal state of health. It's important to look out for symptoms such as sudden facial droop, an uneven smile or tingling sensation, sudden onset of numbness or weakness of arms and/or legs, especially limited to one side, sudden slurred or confused speech, or difficulty understanding language. And I can't stress it enough - call 911 and get medical assistance as soon as possible."
Beatriz continues to see her neurologist, and knows to be on the lookout for any warning signs. "I was familiar with Holy Name Medical Center since a friend of mine had a very good experience there, but I wasn't aware of their Stroke Center designation*," she says. "Of course, now I am, and would highly recommend it to anyone. The doctors were very clear in their explanations, and the staff was really interested in doing what was best for me. I am so grateful that I was treated in a hospital that was so good to me."
*The Joint Commission recognizes Holy Name Medical Center with Advanced Disease Specific Certification as a Primary Stroke Center for meeting critical elements of performance that lead to long-term success in improving outcomes for stroke patients. Holy Name has also earned the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's Get With The Guidelines® Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award and is a member of the Target Stroke Honor Roll for its successful use of evidence-based guidelines to provide outstanding care for stroke patients.