Ruben Rodriguez, 55, was splitting wood on Dec. 30, 2009, only moments before he began experiencing a severe headache, shaky balance and red eyes. A quick Internet search of these symptoms prompted Ruben to believe he was having a stroke. He got in his car and drove from his Pelham home to Cooley Dickinson Hospital.
Although he did not call 911 – the preferred method of action in an emergency – Ruben knew he had to act quickly. That awareness – and fast action in Cooley Dickinson's Emergency Department – saved his life. At Cooley Dickinson, Ruben was evaluated and immediately treated with the clot-busting drug tPA, which can reduce long-term disability for some types of stroke if administered within three hours of the first symptom.
"I was very glad to have good medical
support that helped me survive"
Ruben stayed at Cooley Dickinson from 7 to 11 p.m. "During those four hours, I confronted my most critical moments in my life, but I was very glad to have good medical support that helped me survive," he says. Cooley Dickinson's ED transferred Ruben by ambulance to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where he arrived at roughly 1:30 a.m.
Even though Ruben and Cooley Dickinson acted quickly, Ruben did suffer some impairments from the stroke to his vision, his speech and his balance, and he was still plagued by intense headaches.
After his care at Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Ruben also received treatment at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield and then at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, where he stayed until Jan. 30. Spaulding referred Ruben to Cooley Dickinson Hospital's Rehabilitation Department in Amherst, which is close to his home, for outpatient speech, physical and occupational therapy.
Cooley Dickinson's Speech Therapist Susan Rigali identified paralysis on the left side of Ruben's vocal chords and taught Ruben strategies to help him improve both his volume and his speech. Carol Stoddard and Gail Hegeman offered occupational therapy for vision, and Ruben also worked with two different physical therapists, Stacy Troy and Carolyn Bentley. Ruben has been able to return to work after making excellent progress in all areas.
"At the beginning of my treatment, my speech was not clear," Ruben says. "Now I can speak more clearly. My speech has greatly improved."
Ruben says of Cooley Dickinson's ED and Rehabilitation staff, "They understand the critical situation of patients like myself. They provided me with the emotional support I needed so that I could accomplish my goals."
Along with knowing the symptoms, Ruben stressed the importance of a good family support system during the recovery process, saying, "Family can help the patient reach his or her rehabilitation goals and achieve optimal results."
And remember, at the first sign of a stroke, please call 911 to ensure your safest and fastest transfer to a hospital.
Cooley Dickinson Hospital offers a Stroke Support Group
that meets the fourth Thursday of every month in Conference Room B at
the hospital from 11:15 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. The group is free and open to
the public. For more information, please call (413) 587-1228.