Nurse Stroke Story

Danielle Olk, R.N. remembers when her colleague and team member Nicole helped save her life

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I started the day as any normal shift starts when it’s your third twelve hour shift in a row: with a yawn and a promise of Tim Horton’s in the near future. I was working with my preceptor Nicole and we were having a steady day of working hard, and laughing in the down time.

Just after shift change at 3 p.m. Nicole and I were standing at the nurses’ station when the most terrifying moments of my life started to unfold. The right side of my body went numb. I tried with everything in me to tell Nicole that something was wrong but the words weren’t coming out right. I was hearing myself say the wrong words, slur my speech, and the frustration brought tears to my eyes.

I grabbed Nicole with my left arm and I could see the fear in her eyes as my right leg gave out. She quickly sat me down and yelled for a doctor. In a blur, it felt like everyone came running. I was having a stroke as I later learned.

I was immediately whisked away into the resuscitation room and I was surrounded by people that have grown to be like a family to me. Everyone was talking at once and rushing around, like I would be doing if I wasn’t the patient.

I was sobbing at this point because I couldn’t move or feel anything on the right side of my body. I was bargaining with God and just begging to be able to see my husband and my family again, and thinking back to all of the words I should have said, and wondering if I would ever be able to say them again.

My speech was getting worse and I wasn’t able to think of the right words for things. I finally managed to say the word ‘phone’ and Nicole instantly knew I wanted her to call my husband.

Through the whole process – from being changed into a gown, having everything explained to me, being transported to CT and having my hand held, deciding on treatment options initiating tPA (clot-busting drug used for most stroke patients) and then my transfer to Henry Ford Hospital – my co-workers and some of the best doctors, nurses, medics, and techs helped me get through the darkest time in my life.

I lived the experience of how it is to be that scared patient not knowing how everything will turn out.

After a 10-day recovery process, I was back to work alongside the wonderful staff members that made it possible for the right side of my body to function completely without any deficits.

Without Nicole’s immediate recognition that something was wrong, the quick transfer to CT, the decision to administer tPA within an hour and a half of the onset of symptoms, and the care I received from the staff of Henry Ford Wyandotte Emergency Department, I might not be able to give the kind of care that I received in the ER to other patients now.

Learn more about stroke prevention