When Marcie Paradise was helping a patient one day in 2009, she felt her leg go numb.
For a brief moment, the nurse wondered if she was having a stroke. No, it probably just fell asleep, thought Paradise, who has spent the past 12 years in the post critical care unit at Tucson Medical Center. She was in her mid-50s and relatively healthy, with just a few extra pounds and controlled high blood pressure.
Then her arm went numb. Now there was no question.
She chewed an aspirin in the break room and told her charge nurse, who rushed her in a wheelchair to the Emergency Department, where the stroke rapid response team took over.
The mother of five wondered if she told her oldest son, the only one at the time not living in Tucson, that she loved him when she ended their last call. She was having some trouble swallowing. Her family later would tell her that her speech was delayed as well.
Given the speed with which she presented for treatment, and the fact her brain showed no bleed on CT scans, she was a candidate for tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which works to dissolve clots and improve blood flow to the brain. The FDA-approved treatment is effective within a 4.5 hour window and can’t be utilized with hemorrhagic strokes.
Paradise was off work for two weeks, back part time for another two, and then back at full speed on her strenuous unit, which is one step down from intensive care. She regained full function with no long-term problems.
In the ensuing years, she has improved her diet. She tries to exercise more, including walking her three shepherds. She’s also on a medication to help prevent a subsequent stroke.
Paradise, now 62, encourages others to gain knowledge of their risk of stroke. One opportunity includes Stroke Prevention Saturday, a free event at Tucson Medical Center that takes place on April 16. It is designed to inform participants of their risk of stroke and the lifestyle changes they can take to improve their health.
“My story is kind of wonderful but not every story has that happy ending,” Paradise said. “Strokes are a major cause of disability in the country, so prevention is critical.”
For Paradise, the scare helped her connect even more deeply with the patients and families who come at their most vulnerable, seeking hope and answers. “I’ve always believed we’re put here for a purpose. It was a good reminder that we have a limited number of days here, so I want to live as purposefully and carefully as I can.”
As a Neuroscience Center of Excellence, TMC is nationally recognized for its neurological and stroke care. “At TMC, we believe in prevention,” said Maya Luria, director of Senior Services. “If we can save even one life through Stroke Prevention Saturday, it makes it all worth it.”
Stroke Prevention Saturday runs April 16 from 7 a.m. – noon, with the last intake at 11:30 a.m. For best results, an eight hour fast is recommended. The event will be held at TMC’s Marshall Conference Center on the east side of the main campus.
Screening Stations include:
- Registration Station
- Blood Pressure and Pulse
- Body Mass Index
- Cholesterol/lab screening
- ECG Rhythm Strip Station
- Carotid doppler ultrasound
- Counseling Station with physician or allied health professional
- Consultation from a Pharmacist
- Nutritional Counseling and Resources
- Diabetes education
TMC also offers a stroke support group. Meetings are held on the third Monday of every month from 10:30 a.m. to noon at TMC’s Senior Services classroom at El Dorado. For more information, please call 520) 324-1960.