STRATFORD, P.E.I. - The signs were disconcerting.
Peggy Coady-Compton felt a tingling sensation in her arm shortly after pulling her car out of the driveway from her home in Stratford.
Her hand suddenly fell to her knee. She lifted up the arm and placed her hand on the steering wheel.
She drove a short distance then put her foot on the brake as she approached a stop sign. Braking the car was an effort. Too great an effort, she thought.
Her mind then quickly raced back to a presentation she had heard a year-and-a-half earlier.
P.E.I. Heart and Stroke Foundation CEO Charlotte Comrie was speaking to Coady-Compton and others about stroke.
Comrie highlighted the importance of watching for the signs of this potentially debilitating sudden loss of brain function.
She rang them off:
The last four may not have applied to Coady-Compton at that moment, but a feeling of weakness sure did. She feared she might be having a stroke. She knew the best course of action would be to get to a hospital, pronto.
She didn’t want to alarm her late husband, Simon, a passenger in the car at the time, but she needed him to spring into action. She told him she was not well and needed him to take her to the QEH. Simon struggled to place her in the back seat then drove her straight to the emergency department.
A neurologist determined Coady-Compton indeed had just suffered a stroke. He gave her a drug known as tPA in hopes of stopping the stroke by breaking up the clot.
Success. A tremendous success, in fact.
Three days later, Coady-Compton was back home with no ill effects.
Early on, she was a little apprehensive about tackling many things. She was hesitant to start golfing again, for one.
Gradually, though, she eased back into the same active lifestyle she had led before the stroke.
Six years later, the former president of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce is still swinging her clubs.
She does walk aerobics. She swims. She sings in a choral group. She plays bridge.
“I’m going all the time,’’ says Coady-Compton, who turned 79 on June 14.
“I’m happy for every day, I’ll tell you.’’
She counts herself lucky for being able to do so much. First thing she did after returning home from hospital six years ago was to thank Comrie for saving her life.
Comrie, naturally, would love to see many more outcomes like Coady-Compton’s. The key, she stresses, is in the ability to recognize the signs of a stroke and act quickly.
Over the past decade, strokes in people in their 50s have increased by 24 per cent, and, in those in their 60s, by 13 per cent.
Even more alarming, recent international studies predict that stroke rates among younger people (ages 24-64), will double in the next 15 years.
There are fewer long-term disabilities and fewer debilitating disabilities for stroke victims that get to a stroke care unit fast.
Immediately calling 911, Comrie says, is the best course of action.
Sadly, for whatever reasons, residents in P.E.I. register the lowest number of 911 calls (on a per capita basis) when a stroke strikes someone here.
“We’re not sure what it is,’’ says Comrie.
Coady-Compton hopes her story will encourage people to snap into action when they experience signs of stroke or witness a person demonstrating signs.
“Act on it,’’ she says. “Don’t sit and wonder.’’