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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Stroke Rehabilitation

Making the Best Decisions at Discharge After Stroke

The type of rehabilitation and support systems a survivor receives at discharge can strongly influence health outcomes and recovery. In this, the first part of a two-part series on stroke rehab, we offer guidance for the decision-making process required when it’s time to leave the hospital.

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After stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type of rehabilitation. Outpatient therapy may consist of Several types of therapy. Whether a patient is referred to inpatient or outpatient therapy depends on the level of medical care required.

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Following a stroke, about two-thirds of survivors receive some type rehabilitation. In this second of our two-part series, we want to alleviate some of the mystery, fear and anxiety around the inpatient rehab part of the stroke recovery journey.
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AHA-ASA Resources

The Support Network

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Caregiver Guide to Stroke

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Let's Talk About Stroke Patient Information Sheets

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Request Free Stroke Information Packets

Fill out this online form to request free information about a variety of post-stroke topics.
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Stroke & Parts of the Brain

When Stroke Affects the Occipital Lobe

Our occipital lobe, the smallest of the four lobes of the cerebral cortex, controls how we visually interpret our world.

When Stroke Affects the Cerebellum

The cerebellum contains 80 percent of our neurons. Its job seems to be to make things better. We talked with neuroscientist Jeremy Schmahmann about how stroke affects the “little brain.”

When Stroke Affects the Parietal Lobe

The parietal lobe helps us make sense of sensory information, like where our bodies and body parts are in space, our sense of touch, and the part of our vision that deals with the location of objects.

When Stroke Affects the Frontal Lobe

Of the four lobes that make up the cerebral cortex, the frontal lobe is the largest. It plays a huge role in many of the functions that make us human — memory, language, movement, judgment, abstract thinking.

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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Support Showcase

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!