One summer day in 2017, Kent, who owns an auto shop in Kannapolis, NC, was working on a car with his youngest son, Chandler, when out of nowhere he started to feel very strange.
“I was underneath a car replacing a tire when suddenly I felt dizzy and sick to my stomach,” he recalls. Taking a break, Kent sat on a bench, hoping to wait out the uncomfortable sensation running through his body.
While it didn’t quite pass, he tried to get back to work anyway. When he went to stand on a bucket to reach for something above, Kent found that he couldn’t keep his balance. Calling it a day, he headed home to get some rest.
Kent’s wife, Jenny, was also worried about him when she saw him walk in the door early and decided to take his blood pressure. “It was really high – 193 over something,” says Kent.
Shortly after that, Brandon arrived at his parents’ house to take his dad to an EMS station a few miles down the road to get checked out. As they pulled up to the station, Brandon realized that his dad was rapidly declining and suspected he was witnessing symptoms of a stroke.
“He was out of it and couldn’t follow any commands, so I put my Dad in an ambulance and told the EMS team to take him to the hospital now!”
A race against time
Things moved very quickly once Kent arrived at the hospital, two hours after his stroke symptoms began.
First, his blood pressure was taken. And it was even higher than before. A normal range is 120 over 80 and anything above 180 (for the top number) indicates a health emergency. Kent’s blood pressure was 280 over 160.
Next, he was whisked to a CT scan (which can show abnormalities in the brain and help determine if they’re caused by insufficient blood flow or blood clots) that confirmed Kent was indeed having a stroke.
Quickly thereafter, he was given a stroke treatment called tPA, which is a medicine that dissolves blood clots and prevents others from forming, helping to restore blood flow to the injured portion of the brain. To work effectively, tPA must be administered as soon as possible and at least within 4.5 hours of the initial onset of stroke symptoms.
“Fortunately, Kent’s family got him to the hospital quickly, and from the time he arrived to when he received the tPA, only 36 minutes had passed,” says Sam Saha, MD, Kent’s neurologist at Carolinas HealthCare System NorthEast. “The goal is to administer tPA within 45 minutes of arriving to the ED, so we definitely beat that timeframe.”
A remarkable recovery
The tPA worked wonderfully, and Kent’s symptoms started to resolve overnight. Kent spent 24 hours in ICU recovering and then went home one day later, on a Friday. Remarkably, on Saturday, he ran a 5K and then participated in various water sports the very next day.
According to Dr. Saha, Kent is a prime example of how a stroke can happen to anyone. “Kent was in tip-top shape, with only 17 percent body fat at the time of his stroke. However, he hadn’t been going to the doctor and had no idea he had high blood pressure and cholesterol.” (High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke.)
Kent now has a primary care doctor and regularly checks his blood pressure at home.
“My family and I were all shocked I had a stroke. It was my boys who saved me – it would have been a different outcome without them.”
Dr. Saha also credits Kent’s family for his amazing recovery, particularly Brandon for knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke and getting his dad to the hospital in a timely manner. He credits his team for working as quickly as they did as well.
“Time is brain. And today, Kent is back to his normal, active lifestyle with no lasting deficits because no time was wasted.”