Unable to receive speedy treatment after stroke onset, Lori Roy faces challenges with recovery
In May 2015, Lori Roy was active, fit and seemingly healthy. Employed as a legal assistant in Edmonton, Lori was only 46 years old. Although she did have high blood pressure, neither she nor her husband Blair could have anticipated she would soon have a severe stroke.
That is exactly what happened on May 28, 2015, and the circumstances of Lori's stroke meant that it took many hours for her to receive medical attention. Because she wasn't found right away and it took several hours to get her to hospital for treatment, doctors were not able to prevent the disabilities she has been living with ever since.
Today, as she continues to fight her way back to a better level of function, Lori welcomes the news that the University of Alberta Hospital (Alberta Health Services) is embarking on a new initiative – the stroke ambulance project.
"I think the stroke ambulance is a great thing; I am really happy they are taking that step," says Lori. "Whatever can be done to make sure more people having a stroke get help quickly is important. It will make it easier for patients to recover and return to a good quality of life."
The stroke ambulance to be launched in the Edmonton region next winter will be the first in Canada. The specialized vehicle will carry state-of-the art diagnostic technology and stroke medication, as well as video conferencing capacity to link the onboard clinical staff with neurologists at the hospital.
It will be possible to take a CT scan and treat stroke sufferers with clot-busting drugs right inside the ambulance – during the vital 4.5-hour treatment window in which the drugs have the best chance of preventing long-term disability.
Many stroke patients don't get to hospital in time to ensure treatment within that window. Lori's stroke came on while she was sleeping with no awareness of what was happening. Early in the morning, after her husband had left for work, she got out of bed and collapsed. Blair recalls his worry.
"I was concerned because that night she had been restless in her sleep. I was texting her and she didn't respond, and even though I thought she might be out running, I felt that something wasn't quite right," he says.
When Blair came home, he found Lori semi-conscious and showing signs of a stroke. The ambulance arrived soon after and they rushed to the University of Alberta Hospital – arriving several hours after the stroke had started for the treatment that would save her life.
Lori was left with paralysis on her right side, some short-term memory loss and a visual field defect, and in the months since that day, she has worked on her recovery and rehabilitation. It has been a tough road, but slowly, she has regained some of her normal abilities.
"In the early months, I had to rely on my wheelchair almost all the time. I worked hard trying to walk again and now I can do pretty well with my cane – but it is difficult with long distances," she says. Setbacks have occurred from infections, but Lori still has her fighting spirit and a goal to gain as much independence as she can.
As Blair continues to support his wife and root for her recovery, he too is pleased to see the hospital's plans for the stroke ambulance.
"Seeing some of the patients that were at the rehab centre, it seems that more people are having strokes at a younger age," he says. "Having this stroke ambulance means a chance to prevent a lot of damage to many more people's lives."
This content was produced by Randall Anthony Communications in partnership with The Globe and Mail's advertising department. The Globe's editorial department was not involved in its creation.