Stroke treatment results in recovery and leads family to give back

Within an hour of the treatment, Donna Gensheimer was able to move her foot. Then, within two hours, she was able to move more and speak.

Donna Gensheimer was enjoying a quiet supper with one of her 10 children at her home on the evening of Sept. 12, 2018. Sitting at the table, she was enjoying corn on the cob when the timer went off. Donna remembered turning in her chair to ask her son to turn off the timer when, suddenly, she couldn’t speak. She was falling out of her chair when her son caught her.

Her son called his sister, who got there in 4½ minutes. Someone called 911, and a firefighter arrived almost immediately.

“I could see and hear everything going on around me, but I couldn’t speak,” Donna said.

An ambulance arrived, and Donna’s daughter asked the crew to take Donna to a nearby hospital. The firefighter on the scene, however, recommended that the ambulance take Donna to Norton Brownsboro Hospital, telling Donna’s family that there are physicians on-site 24/7 to provide specialized care to stroke patients.

Norton Neuroscience Institute

Norton Healthcare operates the area’s largest stroke system. At its core is Norton Brownsboro Hospital, which is certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

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Jennifer Foley, one of Donna’s daughters, was grocery shopping when she got the call from her brother that her mother was having a stroke. She immediately called her daughter, who worked in a local doctor’s office and was studying to enter the medical profession.

Clot-busting tPA administered and recovery starts

“My daughter told me to make sure we noted the time, because something called a ‘tPA shot’ could help Mom,” Jennifer said.

They noted the time, 7:30 p.m., so the medical team would have that information.

When Donna arrived at Norton Brownsboro Hospital, the medical team administered Alteplase IV tissue plasminogen activator (IV tPA). The drug dissolves the clot that caused the stroke, improving blood flow to the brain. IV tPA needs to be used within 4½ hours of having a stroke.

Read more: Comprehensive Stroke System offers the highest level of care when time matters

Within an hour of the treatment, Donna was able to move her foot. Then, within two hours, she was able to move more and speak.

“After a bit, I woke up, and I was in this big space and saw all of my 10 children all around me. I thought they were throwing me a surprise party!” Donna said. “What the team at Norton Brownsboro Hospital did was miraculous.”

Donna spent a few days in the intensive care unit at the hospital and a few more days in recovery.

“I’ve really had a good time,” Donna said when it was time to leave.

“I told Mom, ‘Who says that they’ve had a good time when leaving the hospital?’” Jennifer said with a laugh.

Family looks for ways to give back

Jennifer and Rick Foley co-own a commercial moving and storage business, Work-A-Haulix, with Scott and Paige Fitzhugh. After Donna’s stroke, they wanted to give back to the hospital. Now Work-A-Haulix is donating their moving services for the Norton Healthcare Foundation and Children’s Hospital Foundation events.

Donna still receives rehabilitation therapy on an outpatient basis, but she continues to grow stronger every day. She now shares her experience with others and encourages them to pay attention to any warning signs of stroke.

“I tell others to not wait to call and get help if you think or feel something is wrong; tPA saved my life, and I want it to help others,” said Donna, who celebrated her 87th birthday Feb. 12. “I am thankful for each day I am given. I am so blessed.”

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