Code Purple: Surviving a Stroke

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This Eyewitness News Special Health Report Aired in 2015

A personal account by Mark Hiller:

Only six weeks ago on January 11th, my nearly 36 year on air career in broadcasting — and my very life — were suddenly in jeopardy. “There was no indication that you were going to have any kind of medical issue that day,” said my wife, Beth. She and I started that day by attending Sunday mass. “You drove. You were fine. You seemed to be perfectly fine.” After returning home, I noticed a strange, tingling numbness in my left hand. Within minutes, my symptoms took a dramatic turn for the worse. Beth reflected on the moment by saying “You were trying to speak and your words were all jumbled. I couldn’t understand what you were saying and I said Mark, what’s wrong? You had the little bit of a weak spell. You wanted to get down on your knee and then we got you to a kitchen chair and we realized it was something serious.”  As I felt the right side of my face begin to droop, It became apparent to both of us what was happening. “Stroke. Scary,” said Beth.

I decided the quickest way to get from our Old Forge home to the hospital was for Beth to drive me to Geisinger-Community Medical Center in Scranton. “You presented with a droop to your face, weakness to an arm. Your speech was affected. You weren’t able to get words out,” said G-CMC Emergency Room Nurse Kevin McHale, RN. The hospital issued a stroke alert called “Code Purple” which activated the hospital staff to begin testing me for what type of stroke I was having and how best to treat it. “We do an EKG, we check your sugar, start taking your blood pressure. People are asking you a ton of questions to get more information. Cat Scan knows what they need to do. They get the machine ready. Pharmacy starts, you know, to start getting in their head that they need to start preparing tPA possibly if it’s needed,” said Mr. McHale. TPA, or Tissue Plasminogen Activator, is a strong clot-dissolving medicine that must be administered within the first few hours of a clot-induced or Ischemic Stroke — which is what I experienced. Within one hour of my symptoms first appearing, tPA was coursing through my veins and undoing the damage the clot was causing in my brain. “Follow up Cat Scan did show a slight damage to that area but was restorable with the increase in the blood flow back with the tPA dissolving the clot and that’s why you got significantly better within a very short period of time,” said Neurologist Vithal Dhaduk, MD. Mr. McHale added, “The change was remarkable. I mean it was a huge difference. You were getting words out. You were moving your arm better. The droop on your face had resolved somewhat so it was a big, big change for the better.”

Miraculously, less than three weeks after the biggest crisis of my life, I was back to work — all because I knew the signs of a stroke and got treatment immediately. “That was the most important part and that’s why I’m happy to see you like this back to work and now almost back to normal,” said Dr. Dhaduk. Mr. McHale added, “You had a problem going on inside your brain and we have medication to give that can fix that problem. Sometimes it doesn’t happen that fast. In your case, we were lucky enough that it did.” Lucky is an understatement. My recovery gives me a second chance at being able to do the job I love, to be with the people I cherish most and to appreciate each and every day as a stroke survivor.

This Eyewitness News Special Health Report Aired in 2015

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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