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HEALTH WATCH: How your initial respone to symptoms can affect your recovery
Stroke recovery often depends on the patients' initial response to symptoms.
In this week's Health Watch, we meet a man whose carotid artery "broke", as he put it.
His swift reaction to the extreme medical emergency gave him a chance.
Naval Flight Officer Commander Russell Van Diepen says he was teaching a class...when he suddenly felt very tired and hot.
"The entire left side of my brain basically was inactive."
Sacred Heart's Stroke Neurologist Doctor Terry Neill says Van Diepen had the most common type of stroke for patients in their thirties to fifties.
"He had a dissection of an artery that was unknown to him."
That's the separation of the artery wall layers that supply oxygen bearing blood to the head and brain.
The moment Van Diepen had symptoms...one side of his face began to droop, he lost speech and went numb...he immediately sought medical attention.
"Any symptom that is new for that patient that happens suddenly we pay attention to."
Van Diepen lost feeling and function in his entire right side.
He spent two weeks in intensive care, two more weeks in in-patient rehab.
Basically teach you how to function on your own as half a person."
Van Diepen's commitment to his physical therapy was so intense...he was back on base a few a days a week within two months of his stroke.
"Going to work was more normal for me, so my brain gets engaged and wants to go back to normal."
He's still on blood thinners to prevent further strokes...He also takes anti-depressants for the inevitable dark days.
Regular Botox shots help relax his large muscles so they can stretch...and a leg device sends regular pulses to stimulate his legs.
He's grateful for each method that aids his recovery...and tries to focus on what remained.
"I didn't have it affect my memory, so I have my memories."
Van Diepen began his recovery in a wheelchair, today he's driving.
He credits his young, but very supportive and therapy involved children...and a wife that has not wavered for a moment.
Couple that with a job he loves, and has been welcome back too...he's counting his accomplishments.
"About five thousand things taken away in an instant, and you get one or two of them back each day."
"He has worked very hard to recover his deficits and while they are are not fully recovered they're drastically improved."
The kind of stroke Van Diepen had is usually caused by a violent trauma to the head or neck.
Van Diepen's stroke was spontaneous and doctors say it's not genetic.