Stroke survivor shares close call, urges people to know the signs of a stroke

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Nearly 800,000 people suffer from a stroke each year, only a small percent fully recover.
Stroke survivor shares close call, urges people to know the signs of a stroke
Published: May. 26, 2023 at 6:39 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - David Christy says he and his wife live an active lifestyle--but things changed quickly with some health concerns. Now, he’s glad he didn’t ignore those changes in his health because he knows the outcome could have been a lot worse.

Christy suffered a stroke at the beginning of April. Just by looking at him and talking to him, you wouldn’t really know. He credits that to the quick actions of a sheriff’s deputy and nurse nearby when things started to go downhill.

“I had a lot of pain I couldn’t stand and a lot of pain in my left side and my left side just kind of collapsed,”

“And the next thing I remember is that -- we have a friend here in the community, he’s a sheriff’s deputy -- I just remember him holding me and saying, ‘I’ve got you David, I’ve got you.’ And after that was [we] must get him in a chair, you know, he took action right away. And there were a number of other people there. I remember somebody gave me an aspirin, a nurse,” Christy said.

He says that day is still a blur for him, but he knows all of the signs of a stroke were there, but at the time he didn’t know those were the signs of a stroke.

“I had some issues with high blood pressure, just came out of nowhere.”

Christy went to the doctor a few days before his stroke after getting a high blood pressure reading from a machine at home. He says his doctor put him on a blood thinner.

Dr. James McKinney is the Medical Director at Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s comprehensive stroke center, part of the neuroscience institute. He says high blood pressure is the number one risk factor of a stroke.

“Strokes are typically caused by either blockages of blood vessels in the brain, or ruptured blood vessels in the brain,” McKinney said. “We have risk factors that we can’t really control like age and our genetics and family history, but we have the risk factors that we can control that are modifiable. And the main one is high blood pressure. After that diabetes, and cigarette smoking and high cholesterol, sleep apnea. Those are all things that we can we can address.”

Those are the underlying reasons, but what are some physical signs to notice when someone is having a stroke?

There’s an important acronym to remember: Be Fast.

“Be fast. So B stands for balance, an onset of dizziness or imbalance. E is eyes, so vision loss in one or both eyes. F is face, severe facial droop. A is arm, so really arm or leg weakness on one side of the body. S is speech, so slurred speech or difficulty producing words or understanding speech. And then T is time to call 911.”

While McKinney says age can play a role in many cases, anyone could have a stroke.

“Strokes can happen at any age. It’s more common as you get older. But we have strokes and people in their 40s all the time, usually at least a couple a week. And then a couple times a year we’ll have a teenager, young adult with a stroke as well.”

Time is a big factor. The faster you get the help you need, the more likely you are to have a more positive outcome.

“If you suspect you’re having a stroke, don’t wait call 911 Get to the nearest hospital to get evaluated. The quicker you’re treated, the more likely you are to have a good outcome and return back home,” McKinney said.

McKinney has about 20 years of experience and says recent advances in medicine and technology have helped treat patients in a safer and more efficient manner.

All things that helped Christy make a full recovery within a week of his stroke.

Now, he’s sharing this message with others:

“If you have a precursor, if you have something that starts, like I can’t quite raise my arm or something, don’t ignore it,” Christy said. “If you don’t do anything you may well not wake up from from it. So, pay attention to the signs, learn the signs and act on them.”

Christy is still doing his daily activities like playing pickle ball and painting--but he’s taking it a little bit slower these days.