BY: SARAH FEDELE/AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION
On July 3rd, 2017, Kernersville resident, Margaret Taylor, had just finished her relaxing vacation and was back at work at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center in Winston-Salem.
“It was a normal day,” remembered Margaret. “I had lunch and then around 2 p.m., it suddenly felt like a brick was pulling my left hand down. I couldn’t hit the right keys on my computer.”
When she stood up, her balance was off, but she managed to make it to the bathroom. “I checked my face in the mirror, but I didn’t see any signs that part of my face was drooping,” she recalled.
She made it back to her desk and tried to do more typing. When she still kept hitting the wrong keys, she called her supervisor, Teresa Creson, to tell her that something was not right.
“Beyond the fact that I didn’t usually call, she could hear something in my voice,” Margaret said. Teresa came into Margaret’s office with two nurses and a blood pressure cuff. Margaret’s balance was still off and then she got sick and threw up.
“They didn’t mess around. They loaded me into a wheelchair and started pushing me through hallways that I didn’t even know existed,” shared Margaret. “A whole team of nurses was there helping me and one of them had a stopwatch in her hand the entire time. My supervisor got me all checked in as others took me to get a CAT scan. It was confirmed that I was having a stroke.”
Margaret was given the tPA shot, an injection that can break up clots which are causing ischemic strokes. This shot can be given to stroke patients having the right type of stroke. However, when a stroke occurs, every minute matters. Being seen at a comprehensive stroke center and receiving the tPA shot in time can be the difference between living with permanent disability and returning to a previous quality of life.
After ICU, Margaret spent two weeks in the Novant Health Stroke Center with occupational and physical therapy, helping her regain the use of her left arm and left leg.
“Wanting to get back to work really kept me going and kept pushing me to get stronger,” Margaret shared. She was able to come back to work in 3 months.
She says she has a new appreciation of what stroke victims and their families go through. “It’s easy to take those little things for granted, like picking up a paper clip or a coin with my left hand or relearning how to type with those fingers,” said Margaret. “Being able to drive again was one of my goals. One day, I hope to be able to get back into my high heels!”
“Even after two years, I still have to work at it every day. I still work on some balance issues. Physical activity helps. I take the stairs instead of the elevator when I can to keep pushing my muscles. I really feel like going back to work after my stroke has made me continue to get better and get stronger. Each day I push to regain my quality of life,” shared Margaret.
When she retires in the next few years, Margaret plans to volunteer at the Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center to help other families. “It was always so good when my volunteer, Dan, came in every few days and encouraged me. Knowing he had been through the same thing really helped,” recalled Margaret. “After I retire, I want to help other stroke survivors fight and not give up.”
Women need to know that stroke is a major health threat. In fact, nearly 60% of stroke deaths are in women. Each year, about 55,000 more females than males have a stroke, and women have a higher lifetime risk of stroke than men. There is good news—up to 80% of strokes are preventable. Learn your risk factors and know the F.A.S.T. warning signs for stroke at www.stroke.org.
Margaret Taylor is a 2019 Forsyth County “Go Red Woman.” She is sharing her story to help other women prevent stroke. Novant Health is proud to be the American Heart Association’s “Life Is Why” and “Go Red For Women” sponsor in Forsyth County, celebrating all women in this county, supporting women wherever they may be in their journey, and encouraging women to put their health first.