Radio talk show host George Wilson, 65, of Hyattsville, relies on his ability to speak more than most. Yet a sudden stroke put his ability to speak and his life at risk.

“George is never sick,” says Wilson’s wife, Iris. “He’s always the one taking care of me.”

The tables quickly turned in December 2012 when Iris heard a loud thump in their bedroom. She found Wilson collapsed. “My vocal cords and the right side of my body suddenly became paralyzed,” Wilson recalls. Iris instructed their daughter to call 9-1-1. Wilson was taken by ambulance to the emergency department at Washington Adventist Hospital.

Iris’ fast actions helped save her husband’s life.

“When George arrived, the team administered tissue plasminogen activator [tPA], a clot-dissolving agent that is the only treatment shown to reduce the effects of stroke and reduce permanent disability,” says Perry Smith, MD, the neurologist who helped the Washington Adventist Hospital stroke team make the quick decision to administer the medication.

Receiving tPA within an hour of his stroke preserved Wilson’s brain tissue. According to the American Stroke Association, only 3 to 5 percent of stroke patients reach the hospital within the recommended three-hour window to be considered for this treatment.

“During a stroke, minutes matter, so it is vital to call 9-1-1 when symptoms appear,” says Amir Zangiabadi, MD, neurologist at Washington Adventist Hospital. “These include sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm or leg; confusion or trouble speaking; and loss of balance or coordination.”

At the hospital, Wilson was treated by a multidisciplinary team of experts, including a stroke care coordinator, neurologists, hospitalists and therapists, who worked together to stabilize his condition and prepare him for rehabilitation.

“I was amazed at how quickly he bounced back,” Iris says. In two or three days, Wilson went from being able to say one word to full phrases and from not being able to move the right side of his body to being totally mobile again.

“Our team is committed to providing expertise in fast evaluation and treatment of stroke patients. This helps to prevent serious brain damage and allow for an optimal outcome,” says Peggy Elter, RN, stroke program coordinator at Washington Adventist Hospital, a designated Primary Stroke Center by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services and Systems and a recipient of the American Heart Association’s Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award.

Wilson continues intensive speech therapy so he can soon return to his beloved radio mic. When he returns, he will share an important message: “I want to urge people to get their hearts checked.”

Getting to the Heart of Stroke

Heart disease is one of the major risk factors for stroke. Speak to your doctor to closely monitor and treat these conditions to help prevent stroke:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension). This causes the heart to pump harder than normal, weakening blood vessels and causing damage to major organs, including the brain.
  • High cholesterol. High levels of cholesterol can cause arteries to clog, resulting in a stroke or a heart attack.
  • Atrial fibrillation (AF). The most common form of irregular heartbeat, AF can cause blood to pool in the heart and form clots that can be carried to the brain, causing a stroke.