Ruben Casillas – Stroke Success Story

Stroke Strike Back

Acting fast helped save Ruben Casillas from life-limiting effects

Ruben Casillas and his grandson. After quick treatment for stroke at
Methodist Charlton, Ruben Casillas spends
as much time as possible making memories
with his grandchildren.

“Are you having a heart attack?” the 911 operator asked Ruben Casillas.

He responded no, that he felt funny on his left side and was unable to move it. But through his slurred speech, the operator couldn’t make out the words.

“I woke up that morning and just felt different,” says Casillas, 59, recalling the day last May. Brushing off the feeling, he went to refuel his rig before starting the 240-mile trip to Houston. “By the time I pulled into the truck stop, my left side had given out to the point I couldn’t drive anymore.” That’s when he called 911.

Angels on his side

First responders brought Casillas, a Grand Prairie resident, to Methodist Charlton Medical Center, where rapid tests confirmed that he was having a stroke.

“When I entered the hospital, I had a bunch of angels there,” Casillas says. “They took care of me like I was the president. I’m not kidding. Those people were excellent.”

Neurologist Charles Tuen, MD, says Casillas came to the right place for treatment.

“You have to have a well-staffed emergency department with CT-scan availability, radiologists and neurologists available 24 hours a day, and very capable pharmacy and nursing staffs that get things moving quickly,” he says. “Also, not every hospital offers TPA.”

Short for tissue plasminogen activator, TPA is a protein that busts through blood clots, restoring blood flow to the brain.

“The sooner TPA is given, the better the outcome,” Dr. Tuen says. “While we have a three-hour window to administer it safely, our goal is one hour to avoid life-limiting damage to the brain. That’s why we need to spread the word that anybody with stroke symptoms should call 911 immediately.”

Perfect timing

undefinedThe Methodist Charlton team met the one-hour goal for Casillas, who responded to the TPA quickly. A few days later, he went home and stepped up his lifestyle.

He’d quit smoking months earlier, but now he was ready to adopt a gluten-free diet, give up his beloved Dr. Pepper, exercise more, and stick to prescribed medications, even when on the road.

“It isn’t easy, that’s for sure, but it’s worth it,” Casillas says. “Whenever I’m not traveling, I spend time with my grandkids. I don’t want to miss making memories with them.”

FAST thinking

As an Advanced Primary Stroke Center, Methodist Charlton is fully prepared to stop strokes fast. Learn more about our services and how to identify the signs of stroke.

Under Pressure

If you think that you’re too young to worry about above-normal blood pressure, think again.

For people as young as their 30s and 40s, blood pressure exceeding 120/80 can age the brain, according to observations from the Framingham Heart Study. That puts you at risk for memory problems and eventually dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

The study leaders also agree it’s never too early to start controlling blood pressure. Try these tips:

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days a week.
  • Reduce your sodium intake to less than 1,500 milligrams a day.
  • Quit smoking, and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Find healthy ways to manage stress.

Sources: The Lancet Neurology, Vol. 11, Issue 12; American Heart Association

From the winter 2013 edition of Shine magazine.