CoxHealth nurse, 33, shares story of her stroke; warns other young patients about her symptoms

Published: Jun. 29, 2022 at 9:09 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - Strokes are often associated with older individuals. However, CoxHealth nurse Kristin McChesney is sharing her story and warning other young people it can happen to them too.

McChesney says it was hard for her to fully understand she had a stroke until her second day in the hospital. She had no precursors and is young and healthy.

”Because of my age, I didn’t even think that was a possibility,” McChesney says. “Did not run through my mind. I wasn’t scared. I didn’t think I was close to death. None of that. I had no fear of that.”

McChesney was 33 years old when she had her stroke on January 11.

“Got to work at 7 am, and I stroked at 7:45,” McChesney says.

The night before her stroke, McChesney noticed her balance was off and felt like she had a pinched nerve in her neck.

Because McChesney’s been a nurse for nearly nine years, she took extra precautions and had her husband give her a stroke assessment.

“He actually did a full stroke assessment, and within 20 minutes, it was fine,” McChesney says. “There was nothing wrong, and everything was resolved.”

Until McChesney went into work the following day and her condition worsened.

“My face started drooping,” McChesney says. “On the right side, I lost my vision and hearing. On the left, I had double vision.”

Neurologist Dr. Benjamin Lisle is Cox’s Medical Director of the comprehensive stroke center.

Dr. Lisle says symptoms of a stroke include weakness or numbness on one side of the body, facial drooping, slurred speech, and loss of vision.

Dr. Lisle says strokes in younger people can be harder to identify because some symptoms vary.

“The blood vessels are more likely to tear between two layers of the blood vessels, causing what we call a dissection, and in her case, that’s what happened,” Dr. Lisle says. “Those typically occur in the blood vessels in the back, and so they’ll cause symptoms in the back of the brain like issues with balance or nausea and vomiting.”

If you or a loved one experience any of those symptoms, Dr. Lisle says to call 911 immediately.

Dr. Lisle says he would rather it be a false alarm than have someone miss out on treatment.

“The main medication we give for strokes, we can only give within the first four and a half hours,” Dr. Lisle says. “It’s a medication called TPA, and you have four and a half hours from when those symptoms started to when we can give the medication. Only about less than 10% of patients ever get to the hospital to even be considered for that because it’s so hard to recognize the symptoms and get here in time.”

Dr. Lisle says there are also things doctors can do up to 24 hours after the stroke.

“That’s less common that we can do those,” Dr. Lisle says. “That would be going in and pulling out the blood clot. You really have to act quickly to get here.”

Dr. Lisle says it’s essential to go to the hospital by ambulance. That way, the doctors are expecting your arrival.

“Waiting for them when they get here is a neurologist, an ED doctor, a pharmacist, an ED nurse, a stroke navigator, and even a Chaplin,” Dr. Lisle says. “We have six people waiting for you when you get here, and we take care of things as quickly as possible.”

McChesney says the recovery process was challenging, but she’s thankful for where she is.

“Being a nurse is my main characteristic about myself,” McChesney says. “I love being a nurse. I’ve worked in the medical field my whole life pretty much. I started pretty young. I was scared I would have deficits where I couldn’t do that anymore. My children, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to care for them as much as they needed. They’re still really young. That was really terrifying too.”

If you notice any of those symptoms in a loved one, you can do your own stroke assessment.

“You would want to check initially for balance so can someone stand up and if they can’t stand up, can they touch their finger to your nose or back and forth,” Dr. Lisle says. “Then the other would be the eyes. Are the eyes moving, which is another sign of the coordination being off—eyes going back and forth. Then you would want to see if the face is drooping. Then you would want to see if there is any weakness and decreased sensation or numbness.”

More information can be found here.

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