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Patient Still in the Driver’s Seat After Stroke

Published on Monday, November 30, 2015
Scott Livesay

The record breaking winter of 2013-14 is unforgettable for many of us. For Scott Livesay, age 48, of Clio, it was also life changing. While shoveling snow in his driveway on December 26, 2013 he suddenly felt ill. He went inside and sat down in his recliner. His girlfriend Joanie asked what was wrong. She noticed his face was drooping on the right side, he was unable to move his right side and unable to answer her; no matter how hard he tried he was unable to use his right arm or speak. Joanie immediately called 9-1-1. He was taken by ambulance to McLaren Flint’s Emergency Department.

“All I remember is the ambulance drivers asking me what happened but I couldn’t answer,” states Scott. “I tried to lift my right hand with my left and it did not move, I thought I was paralyzed. I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up the next day around 8 a.m. Once again I immediately tried to move my right arm and this time it worked on its own. I was so relieved that I was no longer paralyzed.”

What Scott would find out when he woke up on December 27 is that he had suffered a stroke, and that he was given tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) a lifesaving drug that dissolves blood clots, restoring critical blood flow to the brain. There are strict criteria patients have to meet in order to qualify for tPA. Two things that helped make this a treatment option for him were Joanie being able to tell clinicians when his symptoms started and that she called 9-1-1 right away. Through the Emergency Department physicians, Neurologist Sunita Tummala, Medical Director of McLaren’s Stroke Program, was consulted on Scott’s care. In her role she explains to patients and their loved ones the choice of using tPA as a treatment option to those who qualify.

“With 87 percent of strokes being caused by clots, tPA is a very important treatment option,” states Dr. Tummala. “However, it can only be used within the first few hours of the onset of symptoms which is why seeking medical attention quickly is so crucial when it comes to stroke. The tPA decreases the chances of someone having long term disability, and increases the chances of a healthier outcome.”

Once he was discharged from the hospital, Scott only required seven sessions of outpatient therapy to work on some cognitive issues. He knew what he wanted to say but sometimes could not get it out unless someone said the words first. He returned to work in mid-April 2014, as a C.N.C. lathe machinist where he programmed, set up, and ran a machine that makes ground support maintenance tools for jet turbine aircraft engines from blue prints he was given.

Before his stroke Scott worked 50 hours a week for 20 years. Scott struggled to work more than 30 hours a week once he did return to work. After months of trying to push himself to do more, it was decided he should see a specialist for neuropsychological testing. In February of 2015 he was diagnosed with early stage dementia that is attributed to the cognitive issues caused by his stroke. Cognitive deficits are changes in thinking, like difficulty solving problems, memory problems and many kinds of communication challenges. Still in the driver’s seat, Scott is on a new path these days, “I decided to retire this spring and plan on living each day to the fullest.”