Time is the difference between death and recovery in a stroke


SEATTLE --Three hours could be the difference between death, disability or complete recovery from a stroke. That's the ideal window of time for doctors to get blood flowing back to the brain.

Krystal Horton was being a typical mom, getting her 9-year old son ready for school, when she says suddenly she felt drunk.

"I was dizzy, I couldn't walk. I felt like bomb went off in my head," she described.

Krystal went to the emergency room and was diagnosed with a stroke.

Stroke happens when something cuts blood flow to the brain, depriving the brain of oxygen. "As soon as the brain gets starved of oxygen, after several minutes the small neurons start to die and after a certain amount of time, the damage is irreversible," said Dr. Akshal Patel, Krystal's neurosurgeon at Swedish Medical Center.

That's why it's key to know warning signs. Doctors use the word FAST to help people remember. F stands for face drooping. The A can be arm or leg weakness on one side. The S stands for slurred speech or difficulty speaking. And the T is for time, since it's important to react quickly.

"If we can get to the patient within three hours, we have clot busting medication called tPA which is a strong clot busting agent that can dissolve clots," Dr. Patel said.

Krystal didn't make that three hour window, so she needed surgery.

Her x-ray showed blood traveling through vessels in her brain but stopping at the point of a clot. Once her surgeon removed the clot, the change was dramatic. Blood started flowing again, carrying oxygen and helping Krystal return to normal.

Just a few months after suffering a stroke that could have killed her, she was at a Mariner's game and back to being a mom.

"Here I am today and no issues," she said.

You can learn more about stroke and see the Mariners host the Kansas City Royals when the team hosts the annual "Strike Out Stroke" game on Saturday, April 30th. Discounted tickets are available.

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