Stroke victim receives help in time for incredible recovery

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By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist


Teddy Jennings of Ottertail awoke on an ordinary day in early April and moseyed into the kitchen, which his wife, Rita, already occupied. But as he sat at the table, his legs suddenly felt as though they weighed 300 pounds and he lost the ability to speak. He and Rita locked eyes.

Stroke survivor, Teddy Jennings, shaking the doctor's hand who saved him.A nurse’s aide who had just put in a 12-hour shift at a group home, Rita immediately recognized what was happening.

“I said, ‘You’re having a stroke. You’re going to the ER,’” she said. “I put him in my car and sped over here as fast as I could go. I don’t know how I got him in the car. Half dragged, half carried. All I knew, I didn’t have time to waste.”

Rita helped Teddy hobble into the emergency department waiting room at TCHC. As soon as she told the receptionist, “He’s having a stroke,” the ED staff jumped into action.

Dennis Faith, M.D., and Julie Stevens, registered nurse and nursing supervisor, immediately connected with the St. Cloud Hospital Stroke Center through Telestroke and started Teddy on a clot-busting medication. Rita was allowed to stay by his side through it all.

Soon after, Cole Lugert, paramedic, and Chad Olson, EMT, transported Teddy to St. Cloud. “They were fantastic (in the ambulance),” Teddy said. “These guys were so reassuring and so caring and monitoring all the time. Kind of blew me away.”

Communication remained open between Tri-County and St. Cloud so that when Teddy arrived, St. Cloud was completely prepared and knew exactly what to do to continue his care. They took him directly to the ICU, where he stayed for three days. Two days later, he was headed home.

“I was told over and over, ‘You got there in time,’” he said. “You’ve got a window to get this clot-buster help, and had I waited a couple hours, they told me at St. Cloud, ‘You’d be in a nursing home.’ So what they did here at Tri-County, right here, set the stage for my recovery.”

Teddy doesn’t remember much of the experience but recalls the energy and efficiency in the ER, likening it to a hive of bees or a well-oiled military operation.

“I was raised in the military, and you have your chain of command. Everybody’s doing their thing, even people that you don’t think of,” he said. “Nobody thinks of the cook or the driver, but it all Stroke survivor, Teddy Jennings, and his wife with the ER doctor and staff who helped save his life.takes a team, and I found that here. I felt at ease, even though I was having trouble. I thought, ‘Wow, they know what they’re doing.’ That makes you feel so trusting because your life is in their hands. What they do is going to affect my life. I was in good hands.”

Over time, Teddy regained use of his legs. His ability to write and speak soon returned, though he occasionally struggles to get the words out.

“They said it’s going to take a good year or so before he’s ready or complete,” Rita said. “But if he’s just like he is now, we’re satisfied.”

Teddy agreed. “I tell everybody now, if you’re having a stroke or think you’re having a stroke, go in now. Not later. I don’t care where they go, what hospital, go immediately if they have a problem because hospital people are there to help.

“I am just so happy that I got the crew that I got. I’m so happy that I got the hospital that I got. I really am. My family and Rita and I thank this hospital for all the good they’ve done me. Out of the way exceptional. And we wish to thank them. Thank you, doctor. Thank you, crew.”