Knowing signs of stroke helped save Alton woman

There are always those people who put others first, opening their home and hearts to share with others. At 82, Shirley Meyenburg, of Alton, has spent a lifetime doing just that, so it is fitting that in her time of need, others stepped up for her.

On Friday, June 16, 2017, Shirley was listening to the radio and enjoying a beautiful day. She had no reason to suspect this day would suddenly change for the worse.

“I came downstairs to get a snack and asked my grandma how her day was going,” said Lindsey, Shirley’s 15-year-old granddaughter. “She was shaking and talking funny. I couldn’t understand her.”

Lindsey raced outside to her father, Philip, who was working in the yard. They helped Shirley to bed and Lindsey called 911 and then her mother, Brandi.

“It took me three minutes to get back, so I beat the ambulance,” Brandi said. “She was lying down, and we were asking her different questions. I knew she had a stroke because she wasn’t talking to me straight.”

Shirley had suffered a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. TIAs may last for a few minutes or up to 24 hours, and are often a warning sign that a stroke may occur. Although usually mild and transient, the symptoms caused by a TIA are similar to those caused by a stroke.

After a few minutes, Shirley’s symptoms cleared up, and she started to become aware of her surroundings.

“The ambulance took her to the Emergency Department at Saint Anthony’s (OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony’s Health Center). The physician started testing her, and she was doing fine,” Brandi said. “He said he had one more test for her. He handed her a glass of water and as soon as she tried to bring it up to her lips, she went limp.”

The physician immediately called a Code Stroke, a rapid response protocol that is used anytime a patient displays symptoms of a stroke.

‘I call it a miracle drug’

After further testing identified a stroke, Shirley was administered a tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, to bust the blood clot in her brain.

“Within 10 to 15 minutes, she went from two strokes in an hour where she couldn’t talk, couldn’t move and didn’t know what was going on, to talking normally and understanding where she was,” Brandi said. “I don’t know what this medicine is, but I call it a miracle drug.”

Administered intravenously, tPA is considered the gold standard for treating strokes due to blocked or clogged blood vessels.

Shirley spent an additional three days in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until her blood pressure could be managed properly.

“They worked with her even on her worst day,” Brandi said. “She didn’t get much sleep the first day and was confused. She wasn’t always nice, but they stayed beside her. Oh my gosh, the staff was amazing, truly amazing.”

Recovery at home

At home, Shirley received nursing and physical therapy from OSF HealthCare.

“I don’t remember anything from that day, but now I feel really good. I get up and go by myself,” Shirley said. “They were with me for several weeks, and I really liked the nurses and hated to not see them anymore.”

Shirley hugged all of her nurses and thanked everyone for their attentive care. According to Brandi, that is “mom being mom.”

“I like that at Saint Anthony’s they don’t forget you. I had nurses ask about us the whole four days we were there,” Brandi said. “I even had a Sister come in and pray with my mom. They are not only there for that person but the family too. They’re compassionate even if you aren’t Catholic.”