Grandmother survives stroke to turn 100

Quick action, advanced treatment save a life from stroke

On a day most of us set aside to be thankful for our many blessings, Dixie Howard was counting hers as she recovered from nearly losing her life to a stroke. She also was celebrating her 100th birthday.

Two days before the holiday and major milestone, Howard became unresponsive and fell unconscious during an afternoon game of bingo.

Friends at her assisted living facility quickly notified the medical staff, who dialed 911 and set into motion a chain of events that would ultimately save Howard’s life.

She was rushed to Norton Brownsboro Hospital, acertified Comprehensive Stroke Center.

“When she arrived Dixie couldn’t talk, her gaze (stare) deviated to the right, she had decreased consciousness, was very sleepy and was completely paralyzed on the left side of her body,” said Shervin R. Dashti, M.D., Ph.D., endovascular and cerebrovascular neurosurgeon with Norton Neuroscience Institute. “Those are signs and symptoms of a massive stroke. Time is of essence. Every second counts. For every minute there is lack of blood flow to the brain, two million brain cells will die.”

Dr. Dashti performed a minimally invasive stroke procedure that removes the clot before it can cause permanent damage. By removing the clot, blood flow can return to the blocked side of the brain.

“The effect was pretty immediate. Literally within 5 to 10 seconds, she regained strength on the left side of her body,” Dr. Dashti said.

“He just went in there and picked that thing out,” Howard said in an interview with WHAS 11 news. “It’s just almost unreal to think back and think what could’ve happened. There are so many people who are not as fortunate as I am.”

Howard celebrated her 100th birthday in her hospital room alongside her only granddaughter, Haley, who shares the same birthday. The nurses and staff brought in a cake and signed a card to commemorate the special day. You would never know by looking at her that she had just survived a stroke or that she is a centenarian.

Howard shared with WDRB reporter Rachel Collier that she credits her longevity to two things: Staying active with exercise (she roller-skated in her childhood and teen years, and enjoys skiing and Tennessee walking horses) and having a cocktail every night.

“Find what works for you and stick with it,” Howard said.

More about stroke

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Kentucky and Indiana are in the “Stroke Belt” — a group of states in the southeastern U.S. with a higher incidence of stroke than the rest of the nation.

The increased rate of stroke in our area is attributed to a number of environmental and lifestyle factors, including high incidences of smoking, high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, as well as a lack of understanding in how to reduce or eliminate known risk factors for stroke.

If someone around you is demonstrating any signs of stroke, act F.A.S.T. and call 911 immediately.

F.A.S.T. stands for:

  • ace: Ask the person to smile. Warning sign – one side of the face does not move as well as the other.
  • rms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Warning sign – one arm does not move, or one arm drifts.
  • peech: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, such as “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Warning sign – the person slurs words or cannot speak.
  • ime: Find out when the person was last seen well. Advantage – more advanced treatment options may be available if medical care is received within three hours of the start of symptoms.

Do you know if you are at risk for having a stroke? Take an online stroke risk assessment to find out.

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