On Thursday, October 11, 2018, former Vancouver police officer Derek Redhead,
65, was visiting family in Palos Verdes when, over dinner, he had a sudden
sneezing and coughing fit. “I remember spitting water and food,
and I may have blacked out,” he says. “And a few moments later,
someone said, ‘I think he might be having a stroke.’ I could
hear sirens, and I remember people in uniforms in the house … then
not much until I was in the back of the ambulance.”
Redhead recalls getting into the ambulance and struggling with the paramedics,
insisting he was fine. The next thing he remembers is waking up in the
recovery room at Torrance Memorial Medical Center. He’d just had
surgery (within 90 minutes of his stroke!).
“I was told I had an acute ischemic stroke and I was still intubated
(and restrained) when I woke up. My partner, Junett, was there, and they
told her to be prepared to stay in Los Angeles for a long time.”
During ischemic stroke a blood vessel becomes blocked, usually by a blood
clot, and a portion of the brain becomes deprived of oxygen and will stop
functioning. “The CT scan showed the left internal carotid was occluded,”
says interventional radiologist Richard Krauthamer, M.D. “And angiography
definitely confirmed it was completely blocked. I was able to inflate
a balloon and reopen the blocked artery and then stent it.
“With what we saw in combination with his history, it became clear
this was a very unusual case of a carotid dissection caused by sneezing!”
Dr. Krauthamer confirms. “By the morning Mr. Redhead was completely
recovered, speaking with his beautiful British accent and moving his previously
paralyzed right arm and leg.”
“They told me I could have been seriously disabled and these types
of strokes can be severely debilitating. But the next day—Friday—I
was having conversations and everything was fine. Then on Saturday, they
released me,” Redhead (who is not a redhead) says. He and Junett
stayed a few more days, then took three days to drive home to Vancouver.
“I’m retired, so when my doctor here said to rest for three
months, it was no problem,” Redhead adds. “I’m enjoying
every day, believe me. I’m just glad we went to Torrance Memorial,
which was just five miles away. And I’m glad we didn’t get
stuck in traffic. My life could have been so much different.”
Indeed, Redhead was very lucky: His family recognized the signs of stroke
and reacted quickly, calling 911 right away. He was very close to Torrance
Memorial Medical Center, where emergency department doctors and surgeons
were able to diagnose his stroke and treat him swiftly and effectively.
Time is of the essence when someone is experiencing a stroke. Take time
to learn the signs, and always remember to call 911 so the ambulance will
go to the nearest designated stroke center. Research has also identified
some risk factors for stroke, so if you or a loved one recognize any of
them, be aware and try to make lifestyle changes.
F.A.S.T. to remember and recognize the following signs and symptoms of stroke:
F: Face drooping. Ask the person to smile, and see if one side is drooping.
A: Arm weakness. Ask the person to raise both arms.
S: Speech difficulty.
T: Time to call 9-1-1!
Common Risk Factors For Stroke
- Genetic risk
- Recent antibiotic use
- Out of sync work/life balance
- Habit of ignoring health symptoms