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Save the Date

Peggy and Clay Curvin

Peggy and Clay Curvin

Peggy and Clay Curvin celebrated their 44th wedding anniversary by exchanging a new vow: We will both be around for our golden 50th. Months later, that promise was nearly broken. For the second time in two years, Clay suffered a stroke.

It was just a dizzy spell, he told himself. But, home alone, something nagged at him enough to call Peggy at work. It was probably nothing, he said; maybe he just needed some water.

His slurred words told her otherwise.

“We had been through this before,” says Peggy, “about five years ago. And Laura Hodge, the stroke coordinator at CHOMP, had said never to trust a stroke patient when they say, ‘I’m OK; don’t worry.’ They aren’t able to determine that.

“I told Clay to sit down, and I called 9-1-1.” When Peggy and paramedics arrived, Clay’s speech had worsened, his right eye was cast outward, and the right side of his face drooped — classic signs of stroke.

Paramedics took him to Community Hospital, the only certified stroke center in Monterey County at the time. The designation, by the nation’s leading healthcare accreditation organization, means staff is specially trained to provide the most advanced, proven treatment for stroke.

“I remember when the ambulance drivers said, ‘If it’s a stroke, we go right to CHOMP,’ ” Clay says. “And I remember the ride to the hospital, but not much about my emergency room experience.”

Peggy remembers every moment. “Everyone moved so quickly yet remained so calm,” she says. “They explained everything they were doing; no one ever ignored me. I wondered why they had to run tests before they could give any medicine to my husband. They said they had to know whether it was an ischemic stroke, which meant there was a blood clot, or a hemorrhagic stroke, which would have meant a burst blood vessel. The treatment would be very different.”

Clay had suffered an ischemic stroke, so the stroke team began administering the clotbusting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). After a half-hour, his head ached, he was vomiting, and his heart rate fell precipitously. The team scanned his head for a second time, to make sure there was no bleeding in his brain.

There wasn’t. The headache and nausea subsided, and his heart rate rose.

“By early evening,” Hodge says, “his slurred speech and roaming right eye were almost completely normal. By the next morning, his symptoms had completely disappeared.”

It’s the outcome the stroke team strives for; avoiding the devastating disabilities that so many stroke survivors face and enabling them to mark major milestones — like golden anniversaries.

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