Mid-Michigan EMT suffers stroke, offers voice to American Stroke - ABC 12 – WJRT – Flint, MI

Mid-Michigan EMT suffers stroke, offers voice to American Stroke Association

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SAGINAW (WJRT) - (05/21/14) - This week is EMS National Recognition Week, and this month is also National Stroke Awareness month.

Two causes, undoubtedly intertwined, but never more so than for one Mid-Michigan man.

"It was the day of the national championships for football, the worst day of weather in Michigan of the year," said stroke survivor Tom Mitchell.

A Monday in January, that could have passed by unmarked by any momentous event - except record low temperatures and a championship win for Florida State.

But then, it didn't, and the details of that Monday remain fresh in Mitchell's memory.

On a day when your life changes - for better or worse, you remember.

"Sweaty, dizzy, couldn't walk," Mitchell said.

At 46 years old, a man, in the best shape of his life, found himself scared for his life.

"I sat down on the floor, I told her, listen I'm an EMT, I know I'm in trouble, call 911," he said.

Someone trained to know the warning signs didn't know he was having a stroke. He wouldn't know until hours later.

"Stroke? I'm 46 years, old, that's an old person's disease," he said. "I was mad, my Fiance Kelly was standing next to me, I said, 'Go get my blood work, I want to see it."

He had been running, he was in the best shape of his life. He wasn't old enough. His cholesterol numbers were good. He wasn't showing the symptoms he knew to look for.

How could this have happened? His case was different.

"I had a cerebellum stroke, right in the back of my head," he said.

In the spot where he felt pain for five days before the stroke. A headache, he assumed, was from a sinus infection.

After six days in the hospital, doctors were able to pinpoint the stroke to PFO - an opening in Mitchell's heart that never closed.

The affect it would have on him was clear. This part of the brain controlled his balance and coordination.

"I had to learn to walk again," he said. "After getting in shape, losing weight and exercising, being able to run three miles without breathing heavy to that? It was horrifying to me."

Just over five months has passed, since that Monday, Jan. 6. Two weeks ago, Mitchell laced up his running shoes.

"I was surprised, I was able to run, I think, a straight line, not sure if I was or not, but I moved pretty quick," he said.

Mitchell never thought he would earn the label "stroke survivor", but who does?

"Guys are guys, I'm just trying to tell everybody out there, if you're a guy and something is weird, go to the doctor's, it's OK," he said.

Now, Mitchell is offering his voice to the American Stroke Association. For a man with 20 years of EMT experience, helping others just comes naturally.

Mitchell says he's about 85 percent recovered.
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