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Stroke story: One life-saving friendship

April 14, 2015, started out like any other day for Peggy Foster.

The Tuscola resident exercised and then went to work at Health Alliance in Member Relations.

Dear friend Jeanne Howard also works in that office. The two have been friends for more than 10 years. The day began with the usual pleasantries and work routine.

The routine changed at the morning coffee break.

“Peggy dropped the cup she was holding and was unsteady on her feet. Another coworker right next to her steadied her. I saw this happen, and then I heard slurred speech from Peggy. I jumped up and ran over and helped,” Jeanne said.

Peggy said, “I never felt it coming on. I dropped my cup and was having a hard time picking it up. Jeanne came over and got up close to my face. She knows me well, and she knew something was very wrong.

“She said, ‘Call 911.’ I asked, ‘Who for?’”

Jeanne added, “I yelled—probably a little too loudly—to call 911. I then talked to Peggy and told her she needed to sit down.”

Jeanne knew the FAST drill (Face, Arms, Speech and Time) and got help to her friend quickly.

Several nurses who work at Health Alliance responded to Jeanne’s yell.

“They were squeezing my fingers and asking me questions. The next thing I remember was Jeanne holding my hand and telling me she was going to call my husband Bob,” Peggy said.

Peggy is quick to make a joke, and her personality had returned as the paramedics arrived.

“Peggy’s speech cleared up fairly fast by the time the firemen and paramedics arrived, and she even joked, ‘They didn’t tell me they were sending the cute ones,’” Jeanne recalled.

But soon Peggy had a headache, and paramedics put her in an ambulance. During the trip to the hospital, Peggy said, “I started feeling tired, but the paramedics told me to try to stay awake.”

Peggy stayed in the hospital for four days and recovered quickly. Unfortunately she had another stroke in September. She’s now in outpatient therapy to help with her memory.

Erin Eddy, RN, Stroke Program Coordinator at Carle, says Jeanne did the right thing to call 911 immediately.

Eddy continued, “Peggy’s friends knew stroke symptoms. They didn’t wait to see if she’d get better or worse. Their fast action got Peggy to the hospital quickly. The longer a person takes to get to the hospital, the fewer procedures we can do for them, and they are more likely to have permanent brain damage.

“Always call 911 and have an ambulance bring the person to the hospital. The ambulance workers can start treatment during the ride and radio ahead to let us know a stroke patient coming.”

Peggy added, “I credit Jeanne for helping save my life. Even though I felt a bit better when the paramedics arrived, Jeanne and they knew I was still in trouble and needed to get to the hospital quickly.”

Jeanne commented, “Peggy and I have been through many life changes together and are very close. Even though she’s now retired, we talk several times a week and get together once a month. We help each other with house projects or just sit and laugh.

“We took several ‘girl trips’ together and plan on having a night out very soon.”

And, thanks to Jeanne’s quick action, she and Peggy have more time for their friendship.