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Published on June 12, 2017

Becky Dibbet and family

Young Mom Survives Stroke Thanks to Quick Intervention

National Stroke Awareness Month – recognized each May – has a whole new meaning for Becky Dibbet, a young, stay-at-home-mom from Sioux Center, Iowa. That’s because last July, she suddenly experienced a stroke while shopping at the Sioux Falls mall with her kids.

Sudden Stroke Symptoms

“After having lunch, I noticed my left side wasn’t working right. I also started drooling and slurring my speech. My kids were asking why I was talking and acting so weird. I kept asking what they meant because I didn’t think I was acting that weird. It was very confusing,” Becky recalls.

As they walked down the hallway, Becky lost control of her left side and hit her head against the wall repeatedly while her kids tried to hold her upright. “I kept asking why they were pulling and pushing me, but they were actually trying to help me stand up.”

Within moments, Becky fell to the ground. Thankfully, a nearby registered nurse recognized her stroke symptoms and rushed to her aid. Several bystanders called 911 and Becky was brought by ambulance to the emergency room at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center. Within 37 minutes of arrival, she received a life-saving, clot-busting medication.

According to Karen Garnaas, MD, neurologist at Avera Medical Group Neurology Sioux Falls, Becky experienced an ischemic stroke that was brought on by a blood clot which traveled to her heart and blocked a vessel in her brain. “We were able to give her a clot-busting medication that broke down the clot and restored blood flow to the brain. By the time the infusion was complete, her symptoms had completely resolved. We couldn’t be more pleased with her response.”

Immediate Action is Key

The key to Becky’s quick and full recovery was the fact that she received immediate medical attention.

“Becky was very fortunate that her stroke happened in a place where she was able to get the care that she needed,” said Dr. Garnaas. “In the case of ischemic stroke, a person will lose almost 2 million neurons every minute that they have a lack of blood supply, so time is of the essence. Thankfully, stroke is now a very treatable condition when you recognize the symptoms and seek help right away.”

Becky admits that had she experienced these symptoms at home, she most likely would have tried to “rest it off” instead of going to the hospital.

“Taking a nap or resting when you might have a stroke is the worst thing you can do,” says Dr. Garnaas. “If Becky would’ve done that, it’s likely she would have been left with more permanent weakness, numbness, language issues and visual problems on the left side of her body. Her life would have been forever changed.”

“This was a real wake-up call for me,” adds Becky. “I’m so grateful that God had me at the right place at the right time with the right people around me.”

Reduce Your Risk for Stroke

“Many people think that strokes only happen to older adults, but that’s not the case at all. They can actually happen at any age,” says Dr. Garnaas. That’s why it’s critical to seek immediate medical attention if you experience any sudden onset of stroke symptoms, which may include:

  • Language problems, such as slurred speech or inability to talk
  • Loss of vision
  • Numbness  or weakness on one side of the body, including face drooping
  • Sudden onset of confusion  

It’s also important to work with your primary care provider to assess and reduce any stroke-related risk factors you may have, such as:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Lifestyle issues including smoking, obesity, lack of exercise or excessive use of alcohol
  • Untreated sleep apnea

“By modifying all of those risk factors and creating a healthier environment for your body, you’re going to reduce your risk for stroke substantially,” says Dr. Garnaas.

Find additional tips on how to recognize stroke warning signs and learn more about stroke care at Avera.

Live Better. Live Balanced. Avera.

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