Nancy Hargrove

News | 6 months ago

Grandmother and Retired University Professor Thrives After Stroke Thanks to Quick Action Expert Care

While out of town visiting family on Thanksgiving Day, Nancy Hargrove thought she felt a migraine coming on. It turned out to be a stroke. She needed quick and expert care at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center, from her emergency department care team to specialists with the Atrium Health Neurosciences Institute, to save her life.

Retired Mississippi State University professor Nancy Hargrove no longer plays tennis four times a week, but she is plenty busy with other activities: low-impact workouts, volunteering on the boards of directors for the library and Rotary Club and writing and publishing academic essays.

All this, despite having had a stroke just six months ago. On Thanksgiving Day 2022, Nancy, 81, was in a Charlotte hotel room, getting ready to join family for turkey dinner when she noticed a circle-shaped floater in her right eye.

“Oh no,” she remembers thinking. “The start of a migraine.”

Having had migraines before, Nancy remembered her vision being similarly affected.

“Terrible timing,” she muttered. The words came out garbled.

Nancy stayed calm – migraines had sometimes affected her speech, too. But this time, the migraine never materialized, and her symptoms did not improve.

When Nancy didn’t arrive for dinner, her family called and shortly after, they were at the hotel knocking on her door.

She hadn’t been able to answer the phone and now couldn’t get up to open the door. But they persisted and within minutes, were in her room along with emergency medical technicians. “Raise your arms,” they instructed. “Touch your nose. Tell us how you are feeling.”

Nancy was unable to do any of those things. She remembers hearing her niece, who is a nurse, say, “She might be having a stroke.”

Immediate Treatment

When Nancy arrived at Atrium Health Carolinas Medical Center, Dr. Walker Brooks was in the emergency room. He ordered an MRI, which confirmed a stroke – the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S.

Atrium Health, the largest stroke network in the region, is among the top 10% in the country for stroke care. Carolinas Medical Center is recognized by The Joint Commission as an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center – the highest certification – and has earned notable recognition from the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

Stroke is caused by a blood clot (acute ischemic stroke, the most common kind) that disrupts blood flow in the brain or a burst blood vessel (hemorrhagic stroke) that causes bleeding in the brain. Because the average patient loses about 1.9 million brain cells every minute a stroke goes untreated, getting treatment immediately after the onset of symptoms is critical to improve survival.

A well-coordinated team at Carolinas Medical Center, including stroke-trained neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuroradiologists, nurses and other specialists from Atrium Health Neurosciences Institute, was there to quickly treat Nancy with a powerful thrombolytic, or clot-busting medication, called tenecteplase (TNK).

TNK is fast-working and highly effective, and it’s the standard of care at Carolinas Medical Center for acute ischemic stroke patients who arrive at the hospital within a four-and-a-half-hour window. The medical center is one of the first health systems in the region to provide TNK to patients.

“If you have any stroke symptoms – issues with balance, eyesight and speech, facial drooping or arm and leg weakness – get to the ER immediately,” says Dr. Tamour Tareen, Nancy’s neurologist. “Quick response can be a life-changer.”

Healthy Life Choices

Atrium Health Neurosciences Institute and Carolinas Medical Center provide world-class care and offer state-of-the-art technology and procedures in treating both types of strokes.

Atrium Health Carolinas Rehabilitation Charlotte is the trusted center for post-stroke care, Tareen says, but adds that the primary goal should be to ensure that strokes don’t happen in the first place.

“There is a public misconception that stroke is related to genetics, but the genetic risk is very low,” he says. “Work on lowering the risk factors you can control by making healthy life choices. If you smoke, stop smoking today. If you don’t walk, start walking today. Eat healthy, get enough sleep, take care of your blood pressure and diabetes, and don’t use illicit drugs.”

A second MRI just two days after Nancy’s stroke showed no damage to her brain. She went home the following day, a little tired but otherwise fine.

Nancy credits 45 years of staying active playing tennis (which she stopped years ago after a knee replacement, not the stroke) with her quick recovery – in addition to an expert health care team.

“Carolinas Medical Center is a great place to go if you have a stroke – or anything neurological,” she says. “Dr. Tareen was absolutely wonderful, and so were the nurses. I’m fortunate.”

Nancy’s stroke happened on Thanksgiving, but there’s much to be grateful for today.