June 2, 2023

Worth knowing the warning signs

Kaiser Permanente member Debbie Hoisch encourages people to know the warning signs of stroke after timely intervention saved her life.

Debbie Hoisch experienced a ministroke followed by a more severe stroke 8 months later.

As Debbie Hoisch was climbing the stairs one night to prepare for bed, her left hand weakened, and she dropped the water bottle she was carrying. By the time she got to the bathroom, there was a noticeable droop on the left side of her face.

“My mouth couldn’t move. Then I looked in the mirror again and my face was fine,” she said.

Not wanting to take any chances, Hoisch went to the emergency department at the Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Medical Center. She was diagnosed as having experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a ministroke.

Understanding a transient ischemic attack

A TIA occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is blocked or reduced, often by a blood clot, for a short period of time. Symptoms of a TIA are the same as those of a stroke, but they go away when the blood flow returns. Symptoms include sudden weakness or numbness, loss of balance, trouble with vision or speaking, confusion, or a severe headache.

A TIA is a serious warning sign that a stroke may happen in the future. About one-third of people who have a TIA will have an acute stroke at a later time, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

No blood clots were detected on the CT scan of her brain that night, so Hoisch was discharged and put on a few weeks of blood-thinning medication, to be followed by an ongoing daily dose of baby aspirin. She was also given important instructions about signs of stroke that would require her to seek immediate care.

Another stroke scare

Hoisch resumed her daily routine, returning to her job as a school secretary. Eight months later, another scare occurred.

Hoisch noticed weakness on her left side upon arriving at work. Based on her previous incident, she suspected she was having a stroke. Immediately, she called her husband, who drove her to the emergency room.

Charge nurse Erica Bruce quickly determined that Hoisch’s slurred speech, left-sided facial droop, and left-sided weakness indicated she was having a stroke. “It’s just being knowledgeable about the signs and symptoms of a stroke,” said Bruce. “Debbie needed my help in reaching out to the doctors and pushing for more tests for her.”

Bruce notified the neurology team, which was able to administer a clot-dissolving medication in time to restore blood flow to the brain, minimizing any potential disabilities.

“Erica could see that I was not okay. It just goes to show you how important proper stroke training is for all nurses and doctors, regardless of their field,” said Hoisch.