FAST assessment, care at Ridgeview saves woman from devastating consequences of stroke

Irja Gardner of Mound is an early riser who likes to complete her workout routine before her son gets up for school. But on Wednesday, June 6, her routine was cut short when she noticed that the readings on her X-Box exercise program monitor didn’t seem quite right.

“The X-Box said, ’40 percent complete’ when it usually says ’95 percent complete’ after the first set of reps,” said Gardner. “Then I couldn’t stand up anymore—I fell and ended up on the floor. I wasn’t sure what was going on, so I stumbled up the stairs and sat down on the couch for a while, thinking it would pass. I can’t remember too many details after that.”

Her husband was out of town on a business trip, so Gardner was responsible for driving her 16-year-old son to school. He woke up early for some reason on that day, and asked his mom if they could go out to breakfast before school. But Gardner was unable to communicate with him. “I realized that I couldn’t drive him to school because I wasn’t feeling right.”

Gardner does remember calling her sister-in-law to explain what was happening, and she told her to call the hospital. Gardner called 911, but her son actually talked to the dispatchers.

“He kept his head during the entire time—he was a star throughout the situation.”

When the ambulance arrived at their home, Gardner’s symptoms had resolved; however, by the time they arrived at Ridgeview Medical Center in Waconia, she had weakness in her arm and difficulty speaking. An MRI of her brain revealed an occlusion in one of her blood vessels. She was quickly given intravenous clot-busting medication and was transferred to Hennepin County Medical Center.

“The Stroke Team was waiting for her when she arrived in our emergency department,” explains Dr. Gustavo Rodriguez, Medical Director for Hennepin Stroke Center. “After taking a CT scan of her brain, she was immediately sent to the interventional radiology suite and her clot was removed—in record time. Only 33 minutes from CT to microcatheter placement.”

“Thanks to the excellent care provided by the paramedics, Dr. Stephen Dunlop and the emergency staff at Ridgeview, we have a happy ending to this story,” said Dr. Rodriguez. Gardner is now resting at home after a two-day hospital stay—without any deficits from her stroke.

At such a young age and without the traditional risk factors, Gardner never thought she’d have to know what to do if you experience a stroke. “I’m just learning about all this,” she explains. “What I do understand is that the sooner you get in for treatment, the better off you are. I’m so grateful to the staff at Ridgeview for taking care of me—quickly.”

It’s important to recognize the signs of stroke using the acronym FAST:

FACE: Can the person smile normally?
ARMS: Can he or she raise both arms equally?
SPEECH: Can the person repeat a sentence without slurring?
TIME: Call 911 right away if the person can’t pass the FAST test!

The Hennepin Stroke Center at Hennepin County Medical Center is a national leader in treatment of ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes with some of the fastest clot-busting drug delivery times in the U.S. Hennepin County Medical Center is a Level 1 Trauma Center and public teaching hospital recognized as one of America’s best hospitals by U.S. News & World Report for the fifteenth year in a row.