Time is brain: Quick response saves one Graceville man’s life

May 13, 2024  By: Caitlin Pallai

Marvin Weick

Aug. 9, 2023, started out like any other day for 89-year-old Graceville resident Marvin Weick. While golfing as part of his Wednesday afternoon league, though, he began to act strangely.

“My golf partner noticed that my speech was slurred and told me I should see a doctor,” said Weick. “Someone else also noticed my strange behavior and notified my son-in-law, who got in contact with my daughter, Lori.”

Lori immediately drove her dad to Essentia Health-Holy Trinity Hospital in Graceville.

There, staff quickly connected with an interventional neurologist in Fargo via the telestroke platform. Introduced to Essentia in 2019, telestroke is a form of telehealth that allows a physician with advanced training in stroke care to connect with local providers and recommend diagnostic imaging and treatment for stroke patients at an originating site.

A computed tomography (CT) scan showed Weick’s brain was not bleeding, leading the care team to the conclusion that he was likely suffering from an ischemic stroke.

“Ischemic strokes account for about 87% of strokes and occur when blood flow to the brain is blocked,” explained Megan Carlblom, a nurse practitioner in interventional neurology at Essentia and Weick’s clinician. “It was recommended that a thrombolytic, a clot-busting medication, be given because Marvin likely had a blockage of a blood vessel in his brain.”

Weick was transferred to Essentia Health-Fargo via helicopter for further treatment. Additional scans showed the presence of smaller strokes on both sides of his brain.

“When we see this, the culprit is usually from what we call a proximal source or somewhere closer to the heart,” said Carlblom. “Marvin arrived with an irregular heart rhythm called atrial fibrillation. This was likely the reason why clots formed. His heart wasn’t pumping normally, so clots formed in his heart and traveled to his brain, causing strokes.”

According to Carlblom, stroke occurs due to irregular heart rhythms in about 15% of patients younger than 65. In patients over 85, that number increases to 36%.

Weick remained at Essentia Health-Fargo for a little over a week before returning to Graceville and transitioning to the Essentia Health-Grace Home. He received physical, occupational and speech therapy and is now on a blood thinner medication.

While Weick doesn’t remember the events of that summer afternoon, he is very grateful for the care he received at Essentia.

"The fast action of everyone was key to my survival and recovery," he said. "Everyone at (Essentia Health-Fargo) was amazing and caring, from the doctors to the nurses and specialists.”

“The staff in Graceville was also incredible,” added Weick. “Our community is small; we all know each other. We are neighbors and friends, and I have watched them grow up to be fine adults and health care professionals. We are very blessed to have such a great facility in our small community.”

When you notice the signs and symptoms of a stroke, it is important to get help immediately.

"Those around Marvin did everything right and got him in quickly,” said Carlblom. “The sooner we can treat a stroke, the better the outcome. Marvin was also dedicated to his different therapies, which is a big piece regarding his recovery.”

Weick is back to being just as active as he was before his stroke. He enjoys fixing and refurbishing old international tractors, playing cards, socializing and spending time with his 12 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

He is also looking forward to getting back on the golf course this summer.

Marvin Weick

Weick continues to work on improving his speech, which was affected by the stroke.

“The words are in my head, but I have some problems getting them out,” he said. “That’s been the hardest part for me as I love to visit. With time, I hope to recover more of my speech, but I am thankful for where I am now.”

Weick hopes others will learn from his story and remember to BEFAST, an acronym that serves as a reminder of stroke warning signs:

  • Balance: Does the person have sudden loss of balance?
  • Eyes: Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?
  • Face: Smile. Does a side of the face droop?
  • Arms: Raise both arms. Does one drift downward?
  • Speech: Repeat a simple phrase. Is speech slurred or strange?
  • Time: If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 911 right away.

T also stands for “terrible headache,” which can be a sign of stroke. Called a thunderclap headache, it is intense and comes on suddenly.

“Please continue to take care of your health and your body,” he adds. “Do it for yourself and your family.”

Marvin Weick and family

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