January 5, 2012
Len Shafe thought he was just tired.
Shafe was 48 and healthy, with a third-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
He didn’t smoke and had no prior medical problems — not even allergies.
And he was having a stroke.
It was 5 a.m. on May 16, 2011 when Shafe told his wife, Tammy, he just needed to sleep a little more.
Tammy, though, noticed something was wrong. She shouted for their eldest son, Justin, 25, who was in the next room.
“My eyes were going from side to side and my speech was pretty slurred,” Shafe recalled.
His brain cells were dying, yet he insisted he merely needed more sleep.
Using his smartphone, Justin found stroke symptoms on the Internet. Sudden slurred speech was among them.
“We have to call an ambulance,” he said. They called 911.
Shafe, drooling, began going in and out of consciousness and eventually couldn’t speak.
Justin and his brother Josh, 23, carried their father to the first floor.
Shafe said he knew paramedics were talking to him, but “I had no control” and couldn’t reply.
He compared it to watching a movie and reaching “the end of an old reel.” Images flashed through his mind, punctuated by moments of blackness.
Tammy joined him in the ambulance. They were soon “crashing through the doors” of Belleville General Hospital.
And because the family had called 911, the medical team was ready.
“From the moment I came through the doors this procedure kicked in,” said Shafe.
That procedure is Code Stroke, a protocol introduced at BGH in December 2010. It’s a strict set of rules for treating stroke victims.
It can change and even save lives — but there is a limited time in which it can be used.
Registered nurse Charlene Quinn recalled Shafe wasn’t moving.
“Because he was so young it was so devastating to us,” she said.
A nursing shortage at QHC last year meant many long hours and low morale. But all that gets forgotten when a case like Shafe’s occurs, she said.
“That renews my faith in nursing and explains the reasons why we do what we do,” said Quinn. …