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Whitefish woman recovered from multiple strokes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 26, 2016

Contact:  Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936

                Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

 

Whitefish woman recovered from multiple strokes

Leslie Leroux will speak about her stroke experience in Whitefish Oct. 3 and 4

 

Four years ago, Leslie Leroux was operating a boutique in Whitefish for her fashion company. Then a health crisis changed her life.

Today, Leslie is as beautiful, graceful, intelligent and well-spoken as ever—but it wasn’t easy to get there. Stroke is a leading cause of long-term adult disability in the U.S. Stroke survivors often have lingering problems with speech, balance, mental functions or emotions—depending on what part of the brain was affected. Multiple areas of Leslie’s brain were damaged by her strokes—she remembers being told she had eight small strokes. 

“I can still feel it when I think about it,” Leslie says. “I knew I was dying. The headache had gotten so painful and I was unable to function properly—I called 9-1-1.”

The ambulance took her to North Valley Hospital, where she was then sent on to Kalispell Regional Healthcare.  

In the emergency room, she wasn’t very responsive and was sleepy. She showed confusion, facial droop and was not able to walk or speak—all signs of stroke.

In less than two hours, she was in open-heart surgery and on massive antibiotics for a bacterial infection.

“I remember the doctor saying the infection was growing on my heart valve like a tree,” she recalls.

“Leslie had a condition called bacterial endocarditis, in which a bacterial infection in the blood stream caused a ‘vegetation’ to form on the mitral valve of her heart. This can (and did) lead to small pieces (emboli) of this vegetation coming loose and ‘showering’ her brain’s circulation—leading to multiple areas of stroke throughout her brain,” explains Kurt Lindsay, MD, a vascular neurologist who is the medical director for the stroke program at Kalispell Regional.

“Cardiac disorders represent one of the most common causes of stroke, and all stroke patients (especially young patients) need to have a thorough cardiac evaluation to rule out any abnormal heart rhythm or structural abnormality,” Dr. Lindsay adds.

Not surprisingly, Leslie doesn’t remember a lot of detail from the days leading up to her surgery and her time in the hospital. She knows that it took days for her to wake up.

“I couldn’t really talk—I couldn’t express myself—and I was very bothered and hurt by the way people were acting towards me,” says Leslie. “They didn’t know I was still in there, still with the power to think, even though I couldn't do much else,” she describes her frustration at the time.

“I always took pride in my intellect,” Leslie explains, “I found it very hard to accept my condition—I not only could not speak properly, I couldn’t read, I could not make sense of words on the page.” Losing her ability to think clearly, to be able to figure things out, was a terrible feeling.

It took her a year to recover. Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy are part of the rehabilitation process following stroke. During that time she worked tirelessly on brain puzzles.

“I worked on mental exercises all the time,” she said. “I filled pages and pages of Sudoku and other puzzles in hope it would help me improve faster."

Leslie explains that she holds a deep belief that a body, on a cellular level, wants to survive and repair itself. She believed she could recover. After months of retraining her brain, finally she began to be able to talk more fluidly and express herself. 

Now, you would not suspect she had experienced damage to her brain from stroke. She knows that now she processes things differently; some connections that were rebuilt in her brain aren’t the same as they were. But she also says one of the things she lost was all her “baggage”—all the regrets, small grudges or peeves that humans accumulate in their lives.

“Negativity is gone, and I feel lighter and freer without it,” she said. “I wake up every morning and know we all have such an amazing beautiful life.”

This is an amazing story of an amazing woman, and the care she received. But it could have had a very different ending. So what would Leslie Leroux want other people to know about stroke, and guarding their health? 

·         “Don’t be prideful; be willing to seek help. I should have called for help earlier instead of staying in pain for days.”

·         “Recognize the signs and be able to describe what is happening to you." 

·         “Pay attention to your body and when it feels wrong—do something about it.”  

·         “I was almost obsessively healthy, with an all-organic, vegetarian diet. But nothing guarantees your health—and no extreme is good.”

“Leslie had ongoing diffuse embolic shower for an unclear amount of time. Luckily in these situations, the individual areas of stroke—ischemia is the term for restricted blood flow—are usually small. But recovery takes a long time and the degree of recovery can vary. Leslie was young and healthy, had a great medical team, and worked very hard to get back to where she is now,” says Dr. Lindsay.

Leslie spent 13 days in the hospital, under care by Dr. Pete Heyboer (hospitalist), Dr. Bret Lindsay (neurologist), Dr. Leonard Desmul, (ER physician), Dr. Jeff Tjaden (infectious disease specialist) and Dr. Drew Kirshner (cardiac surgeon), among others.

For more about stroke treatment at Kalispell Regional Healthcare, visit https://www.krh.org/krmc/services/neuroscience-and-spine/stroke-program.

THE FACES OF STROKE

Leslie Leroux will speak about her stroke experience at a free community education event at Homewood Suites at 6 p.m. on Monday, October 3 and again at 6 p.m. Tuesday, October 4 at the Hampton Inn in Whitefish. Dr. Kurt Lindsay, Emergency Room Nurse Practitioner Jason Gleason, and Telestroke Clinical Coordinator Nichole Perisho will also provide valuable information on preventing, treating and surviving stroke during the hour-long presentation. The public is invited.