Ashley Link’s LRHMC Patient Story

Thursday, May 12, 2011  •  Patient Stories

Ashley Link

Ashley and her husband Jonathan returned home at 9:30 p.m. after a 10-hour drive from Birmingham, where they had spent the weekend celebrating a friend’s wedding.  In fact, it was their first weekend away from their two-year-old son, so they were excited to get home to see him.

“It was way past his bedtime, but we hadn’t seen him in a couple of days, so my husband and I kept him up to enjoy him for a bit,” Ashley recalled.  “At 10:30, I put him to bed, and started to get ready for bed myself.”

Ashley acknowledged that on any other weeknight, she would have been asleep at 10:30, but she’s thankful that on this night, she was still awake.  After brushing her teeth, while still standing in her bathroom, she felt light-headed.  Then, her right arm began “involuntarily moving,” as she described it.  She held her right arm down with her left arm, but when she let go, her right arm continued moving on its own.

That’s when she yelled her husband’s name twice.

Jonathan immediately knew something was wrong because Ashley was calling for him loudly while their toddler was just down the hall sleeping.

“When I walked into our bedroom, I could see the fear and confusion on Ashley’s face,” said Jonathan.  “She’s very articulate, and when she tried to talk, her speech was impaired and made no sense.  I asked her if she needed me to call 9-1-1, and she nodded yes.”

Jonathan instructed his wife to sit on the bedroom floor.  As Ashley sat, she tried to pray aloud.  But since she found difficulty forming sentences, she remembers only being able to repeatedly plead, “Please God, please God.”

While still on the phone with the 9-1-1 dispatcher, Jonathan followed her directions by unlocking the front door for the paramedics and securing all pets.  By that time, the paramedics had arrived.  The pair of men assessed Ashley’s condition, loaded her onto the ambulance and called in a “stroke alert” to Lakeland Regional.

By the time she arrived at the ER, Ashley had regained her language and was able to communicate.  And since she was a stroke victim, there was no wait.

Lakeland Regional’s ER is home to the area’s most advanced Primary Stroke Center.  LRMC follows national standards and guidelines proven to improve outcomes for stroke patients.  More importantly, patients who are experiencing stroke symptoms are seen immediately in a dedicated area that is uniquely equipped to treat stroke beyond the first three hours of onset, when permanent brain damage is most likely to occur.

LRMC’s dedicated stroke team is available 24/7 to administer life-saving treatment at a moment’s notice, whether it’s with traditional clot-busting medications, carotid stenting, or the innovative Merci Retrieval System® that allows physicians to delicately remove a clot. According to stroke center coordinator Dorothy Adair, ARNP, “We have an amazingly collaborative team of doctors and nurses who really go the distance to ensure that recovery from stroke is maximized. To be a part of this team, you have to be dedicated. You have to be committed to providing the highest level of care.”

Upon her arrival at the ER, Ashley was immediately given a CT Scan, which was clear, but she was still admitted overnight for observation.

The next morning Ashley was visited by her primary care physician, Dr. Michael Brown, and neurologist Dr. Daniel Traviesa.  Exploring all possibilities and because of Ashley’s age and health, Dr. Traviesa initially considered the prospect that a complex migraine might have caused stroke-like symptoms, but he still wanted to run all tests.  So, Dr. Traviesa ordered an EKG, which came back clean; an EEG, which came back clean; and an MRI, which reflected the stroke.  However, the cause was still unknown. After having a spinal tap, a Transesophageal Enchocardiogram (TEE) was performed. A small scope was sent down Ashley’s esophagus to take pictures of her heart. It revealed a patent foramen ovale (PFO), an opening between the upper chambers, which had allowed a blood clot to travel to her brain.

The following morning, cardiologist Dr. Douglas Ebersole was called in to make the repair. Within three hours Ashley was in surgery. Thirty minutes later, using a minimally-invasive technique, Dr. Ebersole had implanted a closure device, and Ashley was in recovery.

“While in the cath lab during prep for my procedure, Dr. Ebersole’s team tried to calm my nerves.  They didn’t stop talking to me; they were warm, kind and genuine,” said Ashley.  “When I told them that I was going to close my eyes to pray, they offered to pray with me.  And when they learned I graduated from Alabama, one of the team-members, who happened to be a huge Alabama fan too, sang the fight song with me.”

When reflecting on all she had been through, Ashley feels blessed that Lakeland Regional is her hometown hospital.  She imagines what could have happened had she and her husband still been driving on the interstate; or if she were sleeping, like on any other weeknight, and not realized what had happened; or if her parents didn’t live only a few blocks away and weren’t able to keep her son while she and her husband went to the ER.

“If I could say one thing to the medical staff, it would be that ‘your focus is on patient and family care.  And having experienced it firsthand, it was evident,” Ashley stated.  “It was evident in the way you treated me.  And it was evident in the way you treated my family.”

Today, you would never know Ashley had a stroke.  She runs, keeps up with her busy three-year-old and enjoys spending time with her husband.

She credits Lakeland Regional for her full recovery.