Andy Rogers, Back in School and on the Farm Thanks to Advanced Stroke and Neurology Treatments.
It all started that day when I was in science class finishing a half-hour reading assignment. I started vomiting all over the place, my right side felt weird and I had trouble speaking. School staff called an ambulance and I was taken to a local hospital where, during a CAT scan, they found swelling in the left frontal lobe of my brain. I was initially treated for seizures at the hospital. However, because of the uncertainty of my condition the decision was made to send me south to the Level 1 Trauma Center at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach. My mom demanded that I be airlifted, and I’m glad she did.
The Trauma Hawk helicopter flight crew was on the ground for five minutes when they asked me to smile – the left side of my mouth went upwards like a normal smile but the right side didn’t move. The flight crew immediately diagnosed me with a stroke. They called a stroke alert to St. Mary’s and Dr. Nils Mueller, an interventional neurologist, rushed to the hospital to save my life. My father gave Dr. Mueller, a man he’s never seen, never met, and knew nothing about, permission to attempt to remove a clot from my brain.
I had an ischemic stroke, which is an obstruction in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain. My mom recalls me getting wheeled into an extremely high-tech operating room – Dr. Mueller literally ran into the room and wasted no time in saving my life. She said that it was the longest hour of her life.
Dr. Mueller went through an artery in my groin and successfully retrieved the blood clot that caused my stroke and threatened my life. My mom told me I had people all over the world, from all religions, praying for my recovery. Sunday, she said I made it to the Pope’s prayer list. When I awoke from the procedure, I felt weird and didn’t know where I was. I spoke a word, but couldn’t put together a full sentence. Later that day, a neurologist gave me a pen and paper and asked me to write down my favorite food. So, I wrote down: steak!
Since leaving the hospital, I have had follow-up appointments at the Palm Beach Neuroscience Institute for cognitive testing with Dr. Christina Zafiris, a pediatric neuropsychologist. I like having Dr. Zafiris as a physician. She is very thorough in the way she explains the tests and I am very comfortable under her care. She treats my family and me with respect. The school district waited for Dr. Zafiris’ initial reports on me before making any decisions on me returning to school and resuming classes. Today, I am back in school for three classes and the 4-H Club, a youth development and mentoring organization. The second half of the day I head back to my family farm where I meet my homebound teacher for studies.
Before my stroke, I enjoyed spending my free time taking care of livestock. I raised a baby pig named Miss Piggy to show at the annual county fair and my family bought a heifer named Milkshake to start off our herd. Then, three weeks before the fair I had my stroke. The first thing I did when I got home from the hospital was visit Milkshake, who had been staying at my friend’s house.
Three weeks after my stroke, at the Indian River County Firefighters’ Fair, I showed my pig without any help from another peer or an adult, participated in the whip cracking contest, helped my friend show his breed stock cattle, and won Intermediate Barn Prince for my age group. This year, I grew a Glen Navel citrus tree, raised a steer and laying chickens that I showed at the fair. I also showed Milkshake in the breed stock show. Once again, I participated in the barn king and queen competition and the whip cracking contest.
From the day I got home until now, my small, tight group of friends pushed me to get better. They didn’t settle for the head shakes, head nods, and the finger pointing I would use to communicate. They told me, ‘you need to find your words… you need to use your words.’ Even physically, I got right back out there working with the cows. I help take care of a cow that weighs 1,700 pounds and today I don’t even hesitate putting a halter on her. Since leaving the hospital just over a year ago, I’ve even been able to compete at the county fair and present the animals I had helped raise, including a pig, chickens, a steer, and of course, Milkshake.
Today, I feel better, but I am still on a long road to the recovery. I want to say thank you to the doctors and nurses who took care of me at St. Mary’s. I am glad that they didn’t waste any time in saving me from my stroke. It’s true – time lost is brain lost.