Stanley Carey sat in his living room chair after supper on a Monday evening in June, watching “Wheel of Fortune.”
Like he does every night.
“All at once I couldn’t move my right arm,” Carey said. “I was going to get up and do something and I couldn’t get my right arm to reach over the chair. I thought it was stuck. I took my left arm and pulled it up.”
Then he fell out of the chair.
His wife, Helen, who had been working on the computer in the nearby office, heard mumbling.
Indiscernible words. Like the show her husband was watching, with letters missing. Missing syllables. After 57 years of marriage, they could practically finish each others’ sentences. But these words, even she could not understand.
“I said, ‘Stan, are you OK?’” Helen said. “He didn’t answer me. I said, ‘Stanley?’ He still didn’t answer me.’”
She emerged from the office to find her husband crumpled between the chair and an end table. She grabbed the phone and dialed 911.
Prayers and promise
She held her husband’s hand, and prayed.
Paramedics arrived and assessed.
Carey said he remembers going through the doors in the emergency room and being in the chamber for a CT scan, but not much else.
“The CT scan is all I remember until the next day in the afternoon,” Carey said.
When the doctor said, ‘He’s a total miracle,’ I gave him a hug. We are truly, truly blessed. I’m very thankful.
In the meantime, what he doesn’t remember, is the staff at the Spectrum Health Comprehensive Stroke Center, reversing the effects of his stroke.
Shortly after the CT scan, Rajeev Deveshwar, MD, a Spectrum Health Medical Group neurologist, removed a blood clot from a major artery in Carey’s brain and placed a stent in his carotid artery due to narrowing.
Carey was in the operating room for about four hours.
“I woke up Tuesday afternoon and I was ready to go home,” Carey said. “The doctor said, ‘You’re a miracle.’ I had no paralysis, no numbness, no nothing.”
Like the spinning wheel on his show. Carey had good fortune. Amazing fortune, really.
As a precaution, doctors kept Carey until Thursday morning.
“They were monitoring my heart to see why the clot,” Carey said. “They’ve got me on blood thinners. I’m feeling great.”
A fortunate turnaround
Carey has been in for several followup appointments with Muhib Khan, MD, a Spectrum Health Medical Group vascular neurologist.
Dr. Khan said Carey is incredibly lucky to be here, and that the Spectrum Health Comprehensive Stroke Center, one of only seven certified stroke centers in the state, played a large part in his survival.
“More than 50 percent of patients with this type of stroke require 24-hour nursing care and a majority of them die within six months of stroke,” Dr. Khan said. “The (stroke center) is able to provide this type of emergent stroke treatment 24/7. The experience of our team in handling cases like Stan’s enabled us to rapidly assess and treat him within minutes of his arrival, minimizing damage to his brain which is reflected by his remarkable functional outcome.”
The average time between diagnosing a stroke in the emergency room and starting surgery has been reduced from 180 minutes to 74 minutes in the past two years, according to Dr. Khan.
“That’s so important because, as we see just about every day, time is of the essence when someone is having a stroke,” Dr. Khan said.
Carey’s recent ultrasounds, on both sides of his neck, showed no further blood clots.
He’s back to life-as-normal, raising a couple of cattle that he’ll butcher for meat in December and putting in a new fence.
Unlike his beef cattle, Carey is not penned in. He has complete freedom, with no restrictions.
“I can do whatever I want, right from the day I came home from the hospital,” Carey said. “I have no limitations.”
That means the world is his and Helen’s to explore.
“I travel around quite a lot all over,” Carey said. “We go on a cruise once or twice a year down in the southern Caribbean.”
He and Helen recently returned from a four-day color tour in the Upper Peninsula. They attend grandchildren’s sporting events, and visit family up north and in Indiana.
Blessed, and grateful
But returning to normal life doesn’t mean it’s the same life he once lived. He feels more grateful somehow. More blessed.
“I think I was pretty lucky,” Carey said. “I take things day-to-day. You do more of what you want to do because you never know…”
While her husband stroked, and battled back, she prayed.
“I said, ‘Lord, it’s in your hands,’” she said. “And he answered. It was very scary.”
Children and grandchildren drove in and flew in as soon as they heard the news.
“I wondered what we were going to have to face, but I knew I had a lot of support behind me,” Helen said. “I thank my friends for being here and I thank my family for being here. I knew he was going to be alright when he started moving and started complaining about his shoulder hurting. He was talking and able to feed himself.”
But still, she’s on edge.
“I never feel totally comfortable and to this day, I still don’t,” Helen said. “I watch. It was very, very scary. I’ve never been through anything like that in my life that scared me so much.”
But she also feels blessed. She hugged the doctor when she got the news that life should resume pretty much as normal.
“When the doctor said, ‘He’s a total miracle,’ I gave him a hug,” Helen said. “We are truly, truly blessed. I’m very thankful. I thank my lord every day. I thank my friends for being here and I thank my family for being here.”