Feb. 13, 2018, is a day that Felix Quintero will not soon forget. It was
the day he had a stroke at age 36.
“I was scared, confused and everything else,” said Felix, whose
life erupted in chaos shortly after 4 a.m. when he woke up, took a step
to get ready for work and fell.
“My whole left side was numb. I had no strength, and I couldn’t
move. My wife tried to pick me up, but she couldn’t get me back
on the bed. I knew right away it was something bad,” Felix said.
Felix will never forget the sights and sounds from that day. The fire alarm
was blaring – his wife Mayra had set it off to help paramedics find
their new house, which was not on Google Maps yet. The piercing sound
woke Felix’s 9-year-old son Ryan, who ran into the master bedroom
and found his stepfather lying helpless on the floor. Felix watched the
panic spread across the faces of his wife and son.
“I went from feeling fine one day to having my body go unresponsive
the next,” he said.
While it may seem unusual that someone so young would have a stroke, they
can occur at any age. A recent study in
JAMA Neurology, a monthly medical journal published by the American Medical
Association, found that hospitalization rates for the most common type of stroke, where
a clot blocks blood from flowing to the brain, are increasing for both
men and women under age 45.
When people come to Kaweah Delta with stroke-like symptoms – facial
drooping, speech difficulties, muscle weakness on one side of the body
– the team is ready to care for them, said Cheryl Smit, Kaweah Delta’s
Stroke Program Manager. “It is all about the patient, so we are
doing everything we can to give them the best chance of survival and reduce
their chance of disability,” Cheryl said.
That is what doctors and nurses did for Felix. Although stroke is the No.
5 cause of death in the U.S., killing nearly 130,000 people a year, Felix
was not a casualty although he suffered the most common type of stroke.
After a three-day stay at Kaweah Delta Medical Center, Felix was transferred
to Kaweah Delta Rehabilitation Hospital because he needed to regain more
strength before he could return home. He remained under the watchful eye
of doctors, nurses, physical therapists, and other staff members for two
weeks, regaining use of his arms and his ability to walk with the help
of a cane. While Felix is still in physical therapy, he is expected to
make a full recovery.
“I thank God that I was lucky. Some people die; some people have
paralysis for a long time; some aren’t able to talk or move at all,” he said.
Prior to having a stroke, Felix thought that at 5 feet 11 inches tall and
264 pounds, he was relatively healthy, but needed to improve in a few
areas. But at Kaweah Delta, doctors told Felix that high blood pressure,
high cholesterol and his recent diagnosis of sleep apnea had taken a toll
on his body.
“Many of us take life for granted until something like this happens,”
said Felix, who since his stroke has lost 15 pounds and plans to lose
another 20. “This helped me look at life differently, especially
when it comes to taking care of my health. I see life from a different
perspective, and I pay more attention to my family, which is the most
important thing in my life.”