Housekeeper Calls For Help in Right Time

December 02, 2011

Linda Friedel | Reprinted courtesy of KC Nursing News

John Knox resident Margaret North remembers little from the day she had her stroke. Her housekeeper, Cynthia Moulder, Lee’s Summit, recognized North’s stroke symptoms and called for medical help. Moulder was given the Brain Saver Award at the 14th Annual Stroke Symposium in Kansas City last week.

Cynthia Moulder stayed calm as Margaret North became unsteady, unable to string her sentences together.

Then she called for help.

“I knew something was wrong,” said Moulder, who is a housekeeper at John Knox Village. “I’ve worked in a lot of nursing homes. I knew I needed to call somebody.”

Moulder received the Brain Saver Award for her courage and quick-thinking at the 14th Annual Stroke Symposium, sponsored by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, and supported by HCA Midwest Health System.

“I was glad I was there and I could help,” Moulder said. “I feel honored.”

Moulder had just met North as she prepared to clean North’s home the day of her symptoms.

North said she was writing note cards when she realized her words looked foreign. They did not make sense, she said, and the spelling was wrong. She began feeling unsteady and asked Moulder to pull the chain next to her wall.

“I don’t remember much after that,” North, 93, said. “It’s as if I turned myself over to somebody else.”

Moulder said she remained calm inside.

“You can’t get excited,” she said. “You need to think about the person getting her help right away.”

Moulder quickly called the security department at John Knox Village retirement community, who dispatched an ambulance. Paramedics and EMTs arrived within minutes. Paramedic Jim Tone said North’s stroke progressed rapidly and within minutes of arriving, North could not talk at all. Tone alerted Lee’s Summit Medical Center emergency room of North’s condition, then sped her there. Eight minutes later, North arrived to a stroke team ready to administer a stroke-reversing therapy, t-PA.

“It worked,” said Gina Gregg, stroke coordinator at Lee’s Summit Medical Center. “She’s still here today.”

Gregg credits North’s recovery to a series of fortunate events. Moulder quickly called for medical help, who took her by ambulance to the ER in time to receive t-PA, which is used to save stroke victims and their abilities. Gregg said because t-PA was administered swiftly, North was able to regain her ability to communicate, sing and play her harp.

“Look for reasons to treat, not treat,” Gregg said. “Time is brain.”

Greg, a member of the bi-state stroke consortium, said the consortium, American Heart Association and American Stroke Association are working to get the word out to health care providers and others about the importance of using t-PA, the recommended therapeutic drug for stroke recovery.

“It saves brains,” said Jane Martin, RN and BST at Genetech, a biotech manufacturer.

Martin said stroke patients have a 60-minute window of time from the onset of symptoms to receive t-PA. She said it is difficult, but doable. Martin said the goal is to spread the word about the usefulness of t-PA in stroke patients, especially to community hospitals that see few neurological cases or have limited access to neurological support.

“We really want to increase the use of t-PA and get the people more comfortable,” she said.

Health care providers may fear not knowing the exact signs of stroke, she said, and patients frequently dismiss numbness, weakness, lack of speech or one-sided weakness to fatigue or aging.

“They can easily be denied by patients,” Martin said. “They’ll dismiss it.”

Gregg said honoring a community member with the annual Brain Saver Award draws awareness to the importance of getting medical attention quickly to someone experiencing stroke symptoms. Symptoms include facial droop, arm numbness or arm weakness and difficulty speaking or understanding. She said people like Moulder act on what they see. Those actions need to be reinforced, Gregg said.

“We want to increase that,” Gregg said. “You can reverse the stroke. We want to continue that momentum and spread the word throughout Missouri, Kansas and the nation.”

Lee Zebel, an EMT at John Knox Village, was part of the emergency team that spirited North to the ER. Zebel, a guitarist, saw North’s baby grand piano when he responded to the call. Zebel said he considered North a kindred spirit.

“That was a motivator right there,” he said. “Get this woman back to where she can play her music.”

After treatment and additional therapy, North resumed musical performances with her daughter, Jocelyn Botkin. The pair entertains groups with song and harp.

“I cannot say enough words of gratitude,” said Botkin, Lee’s Summit, Mo. “I speak for myself and for my family.”