Online parishioners identify signs of stroke

November 24, 2020 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Heroes

While parishioners watched 63-year-old Pastor Phillip Hilliard of the Austin Corinthian Baptist Church (ACBC) deliver services via Facebook on June 21, 2020, something didn’t seem quite right.

“Watching him on Facebook, it really bothered me because one side of his mouth would not move,” says Otelia Hudson, ACBC parishioner. “I just couldn’t watch him like that; I knew something was wrong.”

Hudson also happens to be Hilliard’s sister, so she quickly phoned their other sister, who lives with Hilliard and his mother, to let them know what she was seeing on Facebook.

Hilliard, who streams church services from his home basement due to the coronavirus pandemic, didn’t feel anything out of the ordinary. He finished the day’s service and was immediately met by his mother and sister.

“I stayed downstairs for a while and my mother and sister seemed very concerned,” says Hilliard. “When I came up, they conveyed to me that my other sister had called saying it looks like I’m having a stroke.”

Hilliard looked in the mirror and describes seeing that one side of his mouth was protruding and much more pronounced than the other. They quickly decided to head to Elmhurst Hospital’s Emergency Department.

In the emergency room, doctors performed many tests to determine the cause of his symptoms and treat him accordingly. He was admitted and eventually diagnosed with a transient ischemic attack (TIA).

A TIA is a short-term blockage in the brain that usually dissolves on its own and only causes symptoms for a brief period. The American Stroke Association describes TIA’s as “warning strokes” because they are often a precursor to a stroke, happening in advance of about 12 percent of all strokes.

Elmhurst Hospital neurologist Arkadiy Konyukhov, M.D., explains that the difference between a TIA and a stroke is that a TIA doesn’t cause any damage to the brain. Doctors traditionally use MRI for detecting damage and determining a TIA or stroke.

In Hilliard’s case, no damage was detected, but the quick actions of family and parishioners were exactly what should happen when stroke signs are witnessed.

“Time is brain,” says Dr. Konyukhov. “If we identify a stroke quickly, we can use medications that can correct the issue. That’s why time is really crucial; about a million neurons die each minute on average during a stroke.”

Identifying signs of a stroke and seeking medical care as soon as possible is critical to ensure damage to the brain is minimized. An easy way to recognize the signs and know when to act is to remember the acronym BE FAST, which stands for sudden changes in Balance, Eyes/vision, Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and Time to call 911.

“This is a situation where you drop everything and call 911,” says Dr. Konyukhov. “If you have or see these symptoms in someone else, don’t wait, call an ambulance.”

In Hilliard’s case, early detection and intervention by family members allowed him to get to the hospital quickly and a stroke was ruled out, but he considers the incident a blessing.

Following his hospital stay, he established a relationship with a primary care doctor who is helping him manage his health and reduce cholesterol and sodium levels without medication. Hilliard has incorporated healthy eating, daily exercise and has lost more than 20 pounds since his TIA.

While the Pastor’s sister jokes about him losing too much weight, she’s glad this event has led to him taking better care of himself. “He’s one of the best pastors; I call him my little big brother because he takes really good care of his family,” says Hudson. “He really does it all.”

At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we strive to provide the fastest, most efficient and effective stroke care possible. Learn about our stroke and vascular services.

Learn more about our emergency care.

To determine if a person is at risk for stroke, Edward-Elmhurst offers an online StrokeAware test.

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