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Published on August 24, 2017
Howard Cronquist understood that his wife was asking him if he wanted to head outside to mow the lawn. But he couldn't answer her, no matter how he tried.
"I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn't say it," the 75-year-old rural Brainerd man recalls.
Sharon Cronquist found it unusual that her husband wouldn't reply, despite her repeated questions. She realized he might be having a stroke, even though he didn't have any other symptoms. She promptly called their son, Darren, who agreed that Howard needed to get to the hospital.
"My son Darren said, ˜We're going to the hospital and I couldn't argue with him," Howard remembers of May 19, 2016.
Registered Nurse Deb Blower called a stroke alert just minutes after Howard arrived in the Emergency Department at Essentia Health-St. Joseph' Medical Center in Brainerd. A specially trained stroke team led by Dr. Nathan Laposky quickly assembled and expedited the tests needed to diagnosis a stroke. They also connected via video with Dr. Sheetal Patel, a consulting stroke neurologist at United Hospital in St. Paul.
When CAT scans showed several blood clots in a major artery on the right side of Howard' brain, the Stroke Code team began treatment with a powerful clot-busting drug called alteplase. Prompt action by the team meant Howard got the drug within 36 minutes of arriving at the hospital. The national benchmark is 60 minutes.
"Time is brain," Dr. Laposky explains. "The faster we can treat and open a blocked blood vessel, the better the outcome for the patient."
Sharon says the team kept her and her son well informed. "I felt Howard was in good hands," she says. "I trusted them and their judgments."
Howard spent just four days in the hospital and returned home under Sharon' care. He spent about a month doing speech therapy, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
As he recovered, Howard faced challenges like getting dressed or remembering which way a nut screwed on to a bolt. "Sharon put a T-shirt on the bed and I did not know how to put it on," he remembers. "It took me three days to figure it out and it was a pretty happy day when I did."
Howard was able to return to chores on his cattle farm and work in his shop. The Cronquists are grateful that Howard could receive all his care close to home. "We were happy to be here and to stay here," Sharon says. "That meant a lot."