This is a feel-good story, because I feel good now. Care for strokes has improved tremendously over the years. McLaren Flint is a Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center and, according to its website, one of six hospitals in the state to earn this certification. To earn this designation, according to the Joint Commission’s 2015 requirements, McLaren proved to have “advanced imaging capabilities, 24/7 availability…and staff with the unique education and competencies to care for complex stroke patients.” In other words, McLaren Flint is the local hospital to go to when having a stroke.
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association reported in 2015, “Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death…On average, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds; someone dies of a stroke every four minutes; and 795,000 people suffer a new or recurrent stroke each year” (cited in McLaren Stroke Network, McLaren.org). Many times people misdiagnose their own stroke. A severe headache, nausea, vomiting, vertigo and changes in vision can be signs of a stroke.
For identifying a stroke think FAST:
FACE: Is the person experiencing facial droop?
ARM: When the person extends both arms, does one drift downward?
SPEECH: Is the person’s speech slurred?
TIME: Time loss is brain loss. Call 911 immediately.
“We are educational, yet fun and social.” —Kellie Stites
McLaren Flint has trained neurologists and neuro-interventionists to treat a stroke ASAP. There is a “treatment window” of 4-6 hours to successfully treat a stroke to avoid brain damage. McLaren Flint also sponsors a Stroke Education and Support Group, where stroke survivors and caregivers meet the first and third Wednesday of every month. The support group also visits For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum, goes bowling once a year and dines out at least twice a year.
Dr. Sunita Tummala, a frequent speaker at the support group, born and raised in Flint. She earned her
undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Michigan and Dr. M.G.R. Medical University. Tummala completed her neurology residency at Henry Ford Hospital and did her fellowship in clinical neurophysiology. After completing her training, she served as the interim and assistant program director of the neurology residency program at Henry Ford Hospital. Since 2006, she has served as the medical director of stroke care for McLaren Flint. Tummala is board certified in neurology and clinical neurophysiology and is accepting new patients.
Kellie Stites is the support group facilitator. She is a certified therapeutic recreation specialist graduate of Central Michigan University and has been at McLaren for 28 years. Stites schedules speakers for the group on health issues, nutrition, emotional health, communication and exercise. Stites is also in charge of the McLaren Adaptive Golf Program and its yearly tournament.
Stites says, “Some people who have strokes have difficulties communicating and in their social involvement. We are educational, yet fun and social. Our participants are supportive and encouraging; it warms my heart.”
I am a lucky person. I had two strokes in one year. I mistakenly diagnosed my first stroke as a vertigo episode, which I’ve experienced intermittently for 30 years. The second stroke was at Comerica Park watching the Tigers and Yankees. Again, I insisted it was vertigo, but this time it was much more serious. I spent a week in the hospital followed by three months in speech, occupational and physical rehab. I ignored the signs of a stroke and missed the window of treatment opportunity. I won’t do that again. You probably wouldn’t guess that I’ve had a stroke. I play golf two to three times a week, swim and ride a bike (once in the 10-mile Tour de Crim and once in the 30-mile Tour de Troit). I stay busy with many interests and hobbies.
In 2013 I joined the support group. I try not to miss a meeting. I have met many inspiring and dedicated people, staff who presented, as well as survivors and caregivers. We are all friends who have varying degrees of stroke in common, and we learn a great deal from one another. We laugh a lot and even cry when discussing emotional issues, which we’re comfortable doing. We are very comfortable in discussing these issues. Joining has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.