Kingston Man Counts His Blessings after Surviving Stroke
One day last September, Jamey Davis went from feeling perfectly normal to having “tunnel vision” and losing feeling in the left side of his body. He was having a stroke, but thanks to compassionate and expert care at Roane Medical Center, he is recovering successfully and looking forward to the future.
Davis works as a barber in Kingston, Tennessee. He also volunteers as summer youth director of the local Little League baseball program. That fateful day, Davis was at a planning meeting to discuss the upcoming spring season. Seeing a change in Davis’s behavior, a fellow volunteer realized he was having a stroke.
Davis was transported by ambulance to Roane Medical Center, which is nationally accredited for stroke care.
Identifying a Stroke
The stroke team determined Davis had two mini-strokes called “TIAs.” A TIA, or transient ischemic attack, is caused by a temporary disruption in the blood supply and a subsequent lack of oxygen to part of the brain. These attacks are called “mini-strokes” because they don’t always lead to permanent damage and patients can often fully recover.
But in the emergency room that night, Davis had an additional major stroke. He promptly received a newer thrombolytic drug called TNK to open up clogged blood vessels. The TNK dissolved the clot before the stroke caused permanent tissue damage, saving his life and minimizing residual harm. His symptoms were alleviated within a few hours.
“I thought this was the end. I couldn’t move my left side, and I couldn’t move or speak. It’s hard to explain the feeling of wanting your body to do something when it won’t. It was a helpless feeling. A hopeless feeling came over me and I remember thinking, ‘there is no way I will survive,’” he recalls.
Davis spent one night in the emergency room and the next four days in the intensive care unit. “I can’t begin to express how amazing everyone there was,” he says. “I had the best nurse on the planet. She put her hand on my arm and talked to me throughout everything. The whole staff was absolutely phenomenal.”
He says the staff went “above and beyond” to care for him, from the nurses and doctors to all the support staff. “The people in that hospital saved my life,” he declares.
What is a Stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood flow to an area of the brain is interrupted by a blocked or broken blood vessel. When a stroke occurs, it kills brain cells in the immediate area. When the brain cells die, they release chemicals that set off a chain reaction, endangering cells in a larger surrounding area of brain tissue.
Without prompt medical treatment, this larger area also will die. When brain cells die, the abilities that area of the brain controls are lost or impaired. The degree of recovery depends on the amount of brain-cell death.
Therapies to Regain Abilities
Davis was treated by physicians and neurologists as he recovered at the hospital. He was also assessed by specialists to determine the severity of his stroke symptoms.
Linda Preston, MS, OT/L, CHT, is an occupational therapist at Roane Medical Center and one of the specialists who evaluated Davis. Occupational therapists work with stroke patients to assess self-care skills, arm function, sensation, strength and balance.
She reports, “His left side was weak, and his grip and pinch strength in his left hand were hindered compared to the norms. But he had minor impairments and good chances of rehabilitation and recovery.”
Kallie Parsons, CF-SLP, is a speech-language pathologist who also evaluated Davis. Speech-language pathologists assess stroke patients initially as well as in the days following a stroke. She says in addition to the weakness on his left side, Davis experienced expressive language deficits and slurred speech at the onset of his stroke. Because of the TNK, his deficits had resolved by the time he was next evaluated.
“We start with an oral motor examination, then do a speech, language, and cognition assessment to determine any possible impairments that the stroke impacted,” Parsons explains. “Mr. Davis had some cranial nerves affecting his oral motor strength and coordination, so his swallowing function was assessed at bedside to ensure he could eat and drink safely – which he could.”
The Recovery Journey
Recovering is a marathon, not a sprint, Davis says. He takes walks with his family, and while at first it was a short distance, from the couch to the car, he is now walking several miles per day.
Following doctor’s orders, Davis is making lifestyle changes that he hopes will curb any chance of another episode. “No more fast food or red meat,” he says. “I’m determined to get my lifestyle under control because I want to be here. I’m going to get my weight and blood sugar under control, and they gave me a heart monitor and some blood thinners.” Occupational therapist Preston says managing blood pressure, weight, diabetes and tobacco use are essential for patients recovering from a stroke.
Davis also says that men need to pay attention to their bodies and its signals. “We are hard-headed,” he jokes. “We can hit our thumb with a hammer, add some duct tape and move on. But not being able to put one foot in front of the other is sobering. It felt like I was looking God in the face and He was saying ‘You can’t keep up like this.’”
Gratitude and Appreciation
Davis says the stroke was a blessing in some ways. “The way the community rallied behind me has been phenomenal. They held a benefit kickball game that drew 4,000 people. It was very neat to see,” he says. His former student athletes whom he has coached over the years brought goodies; people dropped off money, cards and food. “I’m the lucky one. I’m so blessed to have a community come through like this. My pastors showed up to pray over me. I had lots of prayers.”
One of his adult sons stayed by his side the entire time. Davis says, “We need to tell the people around us how we feel and that we love them, while we’re still here.
“Recovering like this has taught me to slow down and be patient. I can take half days at work if I need to, things like that. The biggest surprise has been to just receive the love from everyone in the community.”
To his caregivers, Davis just wants to say “thank you.” “They have no idea what it meant – what it means to my family – all the effort they did, and the kindness. I’m still here because of them.”
Speech-language therapist Parsons says the team of specialists at Roane Medical Center will always treat patients as if they’re family. “That’s how I would want my loved one treated, so that’s what we aim to do.”
Drumming to the Beat
Davis also plays drums in a local rock band and at church, where he will soon return to play with the praise and worship band. Part of his therapy has been twirling his drumsticks to improve the motor skills on his left side. “I have practiced spinning them in my hands. I can do great with my right hand, and my left hand is getting there.”
He hopes that playing music will serve both his agility and his spirit. “I’m thankful when I wake up each day,” he says. “And every night, I thank God He kept me around for another day.”
Stroke is a medical emergency. If someone is experiencing symptoms, call 911 as soon as possible. By learning and sharing the B.E. F.A.S.T. warning signs, you just might save a life from stroke.
- Balance (loss of balance, headache or dizziness)
- Eyes (blurred vision)
- Face (one side of the face is drooping)
- Arms (arm or leg weakness)
- Speech (Speech difficulty)
- Time (time to call 911)