The following content is created in consultation with Sentara Healthcare. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC Washington's editorial staff.
Lee Stroy was a 37 year old father of five when his life changed forever. He had recently become a Washington, D.C. area stagehand, earning a good salary and enjoying time with his wife, Keturah, and their children. In December, Lee was ready to celebrate the holidays. Most of his extended family lived in Florida, and he was preparing to host everyone for Christmas.
“I couldn’t wait for them to get here,” said Lee. “This was going to be such a great holiday. One to remember.”
Lee wasn’t wrong about that. He will never forget that Christmas. His body and mind won’t let him forget, even if he wanted to.
On December 23rd of that year, Lee woke up and got out of bed. Or, at least he tried to get out of bed. When he rolled over to put his feet down on the floor, his left leg couldn’t bear any weight. Eventually, he struggled to the staircase and tried to call out his wife’s name, but he couldn’t form any words. The muscles around his mouth had stopped working and rendered him unable to speak.
Keturah heard him moaning and thought he was joking around; everyone knew Lee had a great sense of humor. She came out of the kitchen and around to the staircase to see what he was doing. Without the ability to walk or talk, Lee was confused but not panicked. Once he saw the horror on Keturah’s face, he knew that this was much more serious than he could have ever imagined. Keturah immediately called 911 and at that moment, the trajectory of Lee’s life changed forever.
Once on the scene, the Prince William Emergency Response Team prepared to transport Lee to Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center, a certified Primary Stroke Center. This highly qualified and experienced team was certain that Lee was in the midst of having a stroke.
In the case of a stroke, every second counts, so the Emergency Response Team called Sentara as they were in route. The Sentara team was fully prepped and ready to help Lee the moment he arrived. Once he was stabilized and examined, the doctors at Sentara confirmed to Lee’s family that he had suffered a stroke.
“Time is everything when you’re dealing with a stroke,” explains Jessica Silcox, who was Sentara’s Stroke Coordinator. “How fast someone gets help can be the difference between a full recovery and sustaining a permanent disability. Sadly, the speed of help can determine if a stroke patient lives or dies. Lee’s wife saved his life because she called 911 so quickly.”
It’s difficult to imagine that just 24 hours after the onset of Lee’s stroke, he had completely recovered. But that’s what happened. His symptoms had vanished, and he was looking forward to being home just in time for Christmas. He wasn’t going to miss the celebration after all.
But Lee didn’t get the Christmas he planned. When he woke up in the hospital on December 25th, he and his family learned that overnight he had suffered two more strokes. Lee spent the week of Christmas in the hospital. On New Year’s Eve, Jessica arranged for him to be transferred to a physical rehabilitation center. He never imagined starting the new year like this.
Though Lee was only 37 years old at the time, he carried several high-risk factors for stroke. Like many Americans, he had an unhealthy diet, shouldered a lot of stress, and didn’t sleep well. Lee also had high cholesterol, diabetes, and occasionally smoked and drank, and, as an African American, he automatically was at a higher risk of stroke and heart disease.
In fact, a few weeks before Lee’s stroke, Keturah had convinced Lee to see his doctor about his frequent headaches. Lee’s doctor diagnosed him with high blood pressure and prescribed medication to treat it, but Lee decided to wait until after the holidays to begin taking it. This, along with the other factors, provided the perfect storm that resulted in Lee’s stroke.
Life looks different now for Lee. He doesn’t get around like he used to and his focus is now on helping others. He wants to raise awareness of stroke and its risk factors, especially among young black men like himself.
“Before my stroke, I couldn’t even tell you what a stroke was,” he said. “I just thought it was something that happened to old people. I had no idea it could happen to me. People can’t think that way. They have to take care of themselves, and they have to know what their risk factors are.”
The American Heart Association says the prevalence of high blood pressure in African-Americans in the United States is among the highest in the world. But, healthcare professionals say high blood pressure can affect anyone. If your blood pressure is more than 140/90 you should see your doctor.
Now on the other side of his recovery, Lee sees his strokes as blessings. And he’s not making lemonade out of lemons. He’s grateful for the lemons.
In collaboration with Sentara and Brain Injury Services of Northern Virginia, Lee now works on a special patient task force that focuses on stroke recovery.
“I’m so grateful to the team at Sentara, especially to Jessica,” said Lee. “She saved my life, and now I want to repay that favor through service.”
The earlier you can diagnose and treat a stroke, the better the chances. Early detection is key. Start with regular checkups and knowing your blood pressure. If blood pressure is higher than normal, medication can help. To learn more and find a provider call 1-800-SENTARA or (800-736-8272) or visit IWantSentaraMedicalGroup.com to schedule an appointment today.
About Sentara Healthcare
Sentara Healthcare celebrates a 128-year history of innovation, compassion and community benefit. Based in Norfolk, VA, Sentara is a diverse not-for-profit family of 12 hospitals, an array of integrated services and a team 26,000 strong on a mission to improve health every day. Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center has Platinum accreditation with the American Stroke Association’s ‘Get with the Guidelines’ program to educate healthcare professionals and their patients, for better outcomes and results. Sentara Northern Virginia Medical Center also has instituted the Telestroke program so potential stroke patients are assessed as they are brought in and immediately taken for CT scan. From there, a Neurologist and Emergency Room physician work collaboratively on diagnosis and care for best results.