Frank's Stroke Story

Jun 6, 2019

Heed the warning signs of stroke

Frank Donahue, stroke patient, St. Mary’s Medical Center

man holding a vase of flowers

Apart from taking medication for high uric acid since his teenage years, Frank Donahue was an overall healthy man. His cholesterol and blood pressure were both under control, and he wasn’t overweight: the typical risk factors for a serious health crisis. Yet despite his seemingly clean bill of health and active lifestyle, Frank still wasn’t spared from suffering a serious neurological episode.

As he prepared for a day of golf with his family, Frank noticed his body felt sore in a few places, so he took an over the counter pain reliever to help alleviate his discomfort. Once the medication kicked in and he arrived at the golf course, it was game time. Even though it wasn’t his best score, Frank still enjoyed a day of golfing with his family, but admits he didn’t drink as much water as he should have.

“I may not be the best golfer, but I still like to get out and spend time with my loved ones doing something we can all bond over,” shares Frank. “Despite my lapse in judgment about my water intake that day, nothing serious happened to me. The scary part came the next morning.”

The day after their golf outing, Frank’s wife and daughter were preparing meals for a friend that was receiving medical treatment, and they ended up falling behind schedule. Had they been on time, Frank’s story may have turned out much differently.

“As my family finished packing up meals, my wife asked me a question as I got up to take a shower. I’m not sure what I responded, but she asked me again, and when I answered her the second time she noticed I was having difficulty speaking,” recalls Frank. “I looked in the mirror and noticed that one side of my face was drooping. When I tried writing my response to her, I saw that my handwriting looked like a child’s and I knew something serious was happening to me.

As a nurse, Frank’s daughter immediately recognized his symptoms and called 911. She told the paramedics that her father was having a stroke and that they needed to take him straight to St. Mary’s Medical Center’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, bypassing two other hospitals on the way.

Once Frank arrived, the stroke team immediately performed a CT scan which revealed a clot in a vessel in his brain, otherwise known as an ischemic stroke. Soon after, the team administered tPA, a drug used to dissolve vessel obstructions to help re-establish blood flow throughout the brain.

After Frank was stabilized, he spent a few more days in observation as Drs. Pedro Hernandez, Suneet Kukreja and Martha Zambrano monitored his condition. Frank believes that the combination of pain relievers and not staying hydrated enough may have elevated his blood pressure enough to cause his stroke. He was so grateful to all the specialists and staff that cared for him that he took the opportunity to express his feelings to the community as a guest speaker at a stroke lecture the hospital held.

“As part of my gratitude to St. Mary’s for saving my life, I wanted to educate community members about the importance of recognizing stroke symptoms and about the outstanding care I received at the hospital’s Comprehensive Stroke Center,” expresses Frank. “Thanks to them, I still have the chance to improve my golf swing for some friendly competition with my loved ones!”