A survivor’s story: stroke survivor Patti DePaulis

When it comes to stroke, time lost is brain lost. CNY stroke survivor Patti DePaulis knows this, and knows her story is an unusual one. Doctors say her healthy lifestyle before her stroke helped her make an incredible recovery despite not making it to the hospital for 12 hours after her symptoms started.

Patti was a nationally ranked Masters runner who exercised all the time before her stroke. One day, she woke up with a strange feeling in her left hip. As she went downstairs to get ready for the day, she said she felt like she was about to fall off the face of the earth.

“I should have said something to my husband right then,” Patti says. She felt strange, and even thought her words were starting to slur. She and her husband were both busy that morning, though. They didn’t get the chance to talk to each other like they normally do. Her husband never got the chance to hear her slurred speech.

Patti went on her morning run with a friend. She asked her friend if her speech sounded odd.  Patti’s symptoms weren’t bad enough yet for her friend to notice, but she still knew something was wrong.

“I should have made a good decision then, while I was still able to,” Patti says now. Instead, she continued to run for four miles that morning.

“I had such a sense of gloom and doom,” Patti remembers. “I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to die today.’ But again, I knew something was wrong and didn’t do anything about it.

Her symptoms continued throughout the day. Patti had trouble driving to a meeting for work. Her spatial perception was off, and she could feel one side of her face drooping. While she waited for her car to be fixed, she even googled stroke symptoms! But again, she didn’t take action.

“I think people noticed something seemed strange, but they didn’t know me well enough to feel comfortable saying something. They might have thought I was drunk, or had a previous condition. If the people I saw that day had known the symptoms of a stroke, I might have gotten help sooner.”

Patti carefully drove home, taking back roads. When she got home, she was so tired all she wanted to do was sleep. “I thought if I laid down, I might never get back up again,” she says. “I laid down anyway.”

Patti’s husband came home early that day. She says her face drooping and slurred speech were so bad at that point, her husband immediately knew something was wrong and took her to the hospital. That was 12 hours after she woke up and felt something was wrong.

“I waited too long to get help,” Patti says. “I’m lucky to have recovered as well as I have.” Doctors aren’t sure exactly when Patti had her stroke, but they say the fact that she was a healthy runner helped her recovery. She spent five days in the hospital and completed six months of physical therapy.

Patti is doing well, but still feels some lasting effects of the stroke. She loves to hike and says she cherishes every high peak she climbs, because she thought she would never climb another one.

Learning the signs of stroke and being able to spot them in yourself, a loved one, or even a stranger, can save lives. Remember the acronym FAST – Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911.


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