Leota “Lee” Brown followed the instructions set out for her.
Don’t move a muscle. Breathe easy.
The 30 minutes in the MRI machine felt like the longest of her life.
And at 98 years old, she’s been through a lot of minutes.
Last month, Brown suffered a stroke. Two days after the incident, she was back to her spunky self at home in assisted-living facility Immanuel Village. She’s required no therapy since the stroke.
“It’s just amazing for her to come out of it with virtually no aftereffects. To me, it’s a miracle. At her age, you just don’t expect that,” her son Bob Brown said.
She is the second-oldest patient to be treated for a stroke at local CHI Health hospitals, a hospital spokeswoman said. The oldest was 101.
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Lee Brown chalked up the pain on the left side of her head to a nasty headache. She would call a nurse for a dose of Tylenol. Before she got any pain relievers, one of Brown’s sons took her up the street to Immanuel Medical Center.
Emergency room doctors immediately recognized stroke-like symptoms. Stroke symptoms include difficulty speaking, confusion and numbness or weakness, particularly on one side.
Brown remembers being rushed down hallway after hallway.
“Where’s the fire?” she asked hospital staff, stammering on the last word.
Brown underwent a scan of blood vessels in her neck and brain, and later an MRI, said nurse practitioner Lindsey Amato.
“Every minute that passes, millions of brain cells die,” Amato said.
Brown showed no sign of bleeding in the brain. Because she arrived at the hospital within minutes of showing symptoms, she qualified for a clot-busting medication that could improve blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived.
Administering the medication to individuals older than 80 is a gray area, Amato said. There’s a higher risk of bleeding, which can lead to permanent disability or death.
Hospital staff and Brown’s family agreed to give her the drug. Within a few hours, the medication did its job, Amato said.
“Whatever it was, it worked,” Brown chimed in.
Two days later, Brown was able to walk out of the hospital and return home to Immanuel Village. She was grateful to have her speech back. After the stroke, she told Amato that “a woman that can’t speak is a terrible thing.”
She credits her ever-active lifestyle with helping in the swift recovery. Over the years, Brown has bowled, played tennis and enjoyed the occasional pink squirrel cocktail. She’s ice-skated and roller-skated.
But as a mom of five boys, she didn’t have time to rest.
“When you have a bunch of boys, what do you do?” Brown said.
She joined them on the backyard baseball diamond, filled in as goalie during hockey games and took them fishing.
“I just sort of grew up with them,” Brown said. “They kept me busy. They kept me out of trouble.”
Brown still tries to keep active. She completes exercise routines twice a week. She keeps her mind sharp with games like cribbage, pinochle and Wizard. And her nimble fingers have crocheted many a blanket or couch cover.
Her advice is to stay active and eat properly, but most important, have fun while you can.
“I’m very lucky,” Brown said.
“We are very lucky,” her son corrected.