Mike Sparks of Albany suffered a stroke in 2016. When he had a second one in July 2020, he recognized the signs.
He knew that he should check things like his balance, if his face was drooping, if he was having trouble talking or if one or both of his arms was inexplicably weak.
“I had told my daughter that if I ever tried to raise my arms to check, I might be having a stroke,” he said.
He’d been resting after a rowdy water gun fight with his grandkids.
“We were going at it pretty good,” Sparks said. “I sat down in the shade to have some Gatorade and realized I couldn’t talk.”
He went into the house where his daughter Courtney Jackson was drying off granddaughter Tessa, and she could tell something was wrong when he could not answer questions.
“Finally, he stood up in front of me and put both arms up like a zombie,” said Courtney. “I said ‘Dad, do you think you’re having a stroke?’”
Answering was difficult.
“I could barely get out ‘Yeah,’ and nodded my head,” Sparks said.
At Samaritan Albany General Hospital the nurse in the Emergency Department recognized his symptoms and called a “code stroke” on the hospital’s overhead speaker system.
“They got him in a wheelchair and took him right back to do a scan,” said Jackson. “Then back to the ED room where he ‘face‑timed’ with a doctor in Portland. Things went so smoothly.”
The physician in Portland was a neurologist with the Providence Brain and Spine Institute using two‑way telestroke technology. Through a partnership with Samaritan hospitals, Providence stroke neurologists help assess patients with complex cases, view test results and help guide treatment. Samaritan physicians can also communicate with the stroke neurologist over the phone and discuss the results of tests and patient history.
Sparks could see and hear what was going on around him, but he still had trouble talking.
“The doctor on the telemed asked ‘Do you want the shot?’” Sparks said. “I could barely get out ‘Yeah,’ and nodded my head.”
Just over an hour from when his symptoms started, Sparks was given a special drug called alteplase that breaks up blood clots and restores blood flow to the brain.
“The goal is to give alteplase within three hours from when symptoms started,” said Stroke Care Coordinator Sarah Vincent, RN. “Because of the quick thinking and responses by Mike and his daughter, Courtney, and the smooth procedure at the hospital, we hit that target and Mike had a great outcome.”
Within about an hour of receiving the medicine, Sparks was talking again and when he left the hospital after two days, he could walk, talk and drive as usual.
Sparks is paying close attention to his health these days.
“I’m trying to eat better and go on walks,” he said. “I’m working on quitting smoking. That is going well.”
His advice is that everyone learn the symptoms of stroke and to think in advance about how you will check if you think a stroke is happening.
“Make sure people know the signs,” he said. “Do the tests — put out your arms, open your mouth, smile, move your tongue around. Get to a mirror and look for eye or face droopiness.”
To learn about stroke symptoms and Samaritan Stroke Services, visit samhealth.org/Stroke.