"In December 2009, I was on the floor in the living room filling Christmas goodie bags for my family. I went to get up and couldn't move. I couldn't even crawl over to the sofa to pull myself up, something I often do when I play with my grandchildren on the floor.
"I called my husband Sal to get me a tissue because my nose was also running. When he came into the room, he took one look at my face and said he was calling the ambulance because he could tell I was having a stroke.
"All of our six kids and 14 grandchildren live within two miles of our house. My son who is an EMT came over and I tried waving to him because I was behind the sofa and he couldn't see me at first. I couldn't even wave. My whole left side wouldn't do anything.
"Next thing I know I was in the ER at Riverside in Newport News. Thank goodness that's where the ambulance took me because I'm alive and well again because of the unbelievable care I received."
"I felt no pain whatsoever."
In the ER at Riverside, they did a CT scan and Dr. Rodriguez literally ran down the hall to get the scan's outcome so they could quickly give me the drug tPA to eliminate the clot. They found out I had an aneurysm and fortunately it was not a bleeder or they would not have been able to give me the drug. They told me probably a piece of plaque from my right carotid artery had broken off and caused the stroke.
They gave me the drug and the next thing I knew I could move my arm and leg. You have to get that drug in a matter of a few hours for it to work.
I had my left carotid artery cleaned in 2004 and had the right one done in 2010, right after the stroke that Christmas 2009.
My experience with Riverside
"The doctors treated me like I was their mother."
When I got to Riverside in the ambulance, they had everything in the ER ready to take care of me. There were about 15 people working on me. I was so impressed with Dr. Blair Marsteller at Riverside that I made him my neurologist.
The nurses and doctors at Riverside are like family to me now. All I got was kindness and love and care that helped me get well during the three days I was there.
Life after the stroke
"I'm 66 and life is pretty much back to normal."
A year later, I'm on my last week of physical therapy and I'm like I was before. A physical therapist came to the house three times a week, helping me walk with a walker, then a cane and now unassisted.
I had a speech therapist at Riverside who helped me with cognitive skills. At first, I had trouble telling time and problems with other number things. Boy, did I mess up my checkbook at first, but everything is OK now.
I also had an occupational therapist who taught me how to use my hand. I passed balloons back and forth and picked up beans and put them in a jar, things like that to get movement back in my hand.
The kids and grandchildren have been there for me, always coming to the house to help out. The grandchildren and I throw a ball back and forth and that's helped me with skills.
Sal and I have been married 47 years and, thankfully, life is good again.
"Don't delay getting to the ER"
If you think you're having a stroke, get to the ER quickly so you can get the medication that dissolves the clot – don't wait, get there fast.