Teri Ackerson's Why

Being a stroke coordinator for a hospital in the Kansas City area helped her know what to do and stay calm when she experienced a stroke herself in 2013.



Teri at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon

Memorial Day 2013, Teri Ackerson finished a 6-mile run in preparation for her next marathon, went home for a shower, then visited a Starbucks for a latte with her teenage son, Parker.

Driving away, her grip on her coffee cup loosened as her left arm suddenly went numb. She felt the left side of her face droop down and she couldn’t speak.

“Mom,” Parker said, “I think you’re having a stroke.”

Teri made sure to note the time. She wanted the medical team to know exactly when her symptoms began.

How did she know such a thing was important?

Because Teri is a stroke coordinator for a hospital in the Kansas City area.

Teri’s experience helped her identify what was happening and remain calm enough to know what to do next.

What she needed was the drug tPA, a clot-busting agent that works to dissolve the clot and restore blood flow to the brain. The sooner it’s given, the better the chances of reducing the extent of damage caused by the stroke. And she knew a Primary Stroke Center was less than a mile away. She arrived within seven minutes of the onset of the symptoms.

(Teri knows that 9-1-1 should be called whenever a stroke is suspected. Her case was a rare exception, as she knew what was happening and she was so close to quality care.) “You lose about 2 million brain cells a minute when you have a stroke,” Teri said, “so you have to be treated as fast as you can to avoid serious disability.”

Stroke is the fourth-leading killer of Americans, and a leading cause of adult disability. Teri knows this, and is sharing her story in hopes of helping others. She appeared on NBC’s The Today Show earlier this year to spread the word about how to spot the signs and symptoms of a stroke through F.A.S.T.

After several months of rehabilitation therapy, Teri has fully regained her arm movement, but still has a slight facial droop, the tell-tale sign that she had a stroke.

It turned out that she had another condition that actually caused the stroke – an undiagnosed hole in her heart, or patent foramen ovale (PFO). She underwent surgery in November to correct that.

“If I had not been treated at a Primary Stroke Center, I could have been much worse off,” Teri said.

Primary Stroke Centers are hospitals certified by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association and The Joint Commission as meeting specific best-practice, research-based standards from scientific guidelines for delivering stroke care.

As a stroke coordinator at a hospital near Kansas City, Teri works with stroke patients on “teachable moments” that can help prevent a second stroke.

“Primary Stroke Centers not only treat quickly with tPA, but they also follow evidence-based research that helps to determine why you had a stroke in the first place, and report these findings,” she said.

 

Teri is running again. Only 26 days after her stroke, she ran her first marathon. She ran her first marathon since the heart procedure in April 2014, completing the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. She hopes to run three marathons a year, and continues to volunteer with the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association as a member of the Kansas City Bi-State Stroke Consortium.

She also spoke to her local news media during World Stroke Day about the importance of recognizing stroke symptoms F.A.S.T. and became a Go Red For Women ambassador in 2013. She spoke at a local Go Red For Women luncheon in April 2014.

“If I can help one person get to the hospital fast enough so they don’t have to go through long rehab or help prevent them from having another stroke, then I’m satisfied."

“To say you are a survivor is scary, but I have a new resolve now,” she said. “If I can help one person get to the hospital fast enough so they don’t have to go through long rehab or help prevent them from having another stroke, then I’m satisfied.

“Now I can look in my patient’s eyes when I hold their hand and see fear in their eyes and gently whisper to them, ‘I have been in this bed; it will get better.’”

After her stroke, Teri now cherishes every moment with her family. “Watching my son, who is also my favorite second baseman, turn a double play on a Saturday morning is why. Scuba diving with my husband on a reef in Mexico is why. My family is why.”

 

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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

When faced with challenges recovering from heart disease or stroke, it’s important to have emotional support. That is why we created a network to connect patients and loved ones with others during their journey.

Stroke Family Warmline

The Warmline connects stroke survivors and their families with an ASA team member who can provide support, helpful information or just a listening ear. We have trained several members of ASA's national call

Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

Let's Talk About Stroke is a series of downloadable patient information sheets, created by the American Stroke Association, that presents information in a question-and-answer format that's brief, easy to follow and easy to read.

Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.

Caregiver Guide to Stroke

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Tips for Daily Living Library

This volunteer-powered library gathers tips and ideas from stroke survivors, caregivers and healthcare professionals all over the country who’ve created or discovered adaptive and often innovative ways to get things done!

Stroke Support Group Finder

To find a group near you, simply enter your ZIP code and a mile radius. If your initial search does not pull up any groups, try
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Temporal Lobe

The temporal lobe has several functions, mainly involved with memory, perception and language.

When Stroke Affects the Brain Stem

The brain stem serves as a bridge in the nervous system. It sits at the top of the spinal column in the center of the brain. When a stroke happens there, it can cause a few different deficits and, in the most severe cases, can lead to locked-in syndrome.

When Stroke Affects the Thalamus

The thalamus can be thought of as a "relay station," receiving signals from the brain’s outer regions (cerebral cortex), interpreting them, then sending them to other areas of the brain to complete their job.
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Departments

Stroke Notes

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Readers Room

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Life Is Why

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Our new department highlighting the good work being done by stroke support groups from around the nation. If you are part of a successful support group we should consider featuring, let us know!