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John W.

  • Author: John W.
  • Date Submitted: Aug 1, 2019
  • Category: Stroke

Life hasn’t been the same for Solomon Plains Memorial Junior High School Principal John W. since February 4th. It’s the day he suffered a stroke on the job. It started as a late morning dull headache that was later accompanied by other symptoms. “I looked at my computer and I saw double. I looked at some of the items on my desk and I saw double. And then I started to try to think where I was.”

John, who is diabetic and hypertensive, wasn’t sure what was happening. During a text message conversation with his wife Cheryl, she urged him to see the school nurse. “I thought maybe the sugar level was not what it was supposed to be and also he does have high blood pressure and I thought maybe the pressure went up but I had no idea it would have been a stroke,” she said. Valuable time passed from the onset of symptoms to when John finally saw nurse Nicole Tomek. “He was complaining. He said my head hurt so bad and he sat down in my office and I started talking to him and his speech was garbled. He was very confused. He started with a little bit of a droop in the face.” When asked what she thought was happening, Ms. Tomek replied “Stroke. Absolutely.”

An ambulance took John to Wilkes-Barre General Hospital leaving the Solomon Plains Memorial community traumatized. “This bubbly, loud, vivacious personality to the building has been silenced was like, it was, it took the whole staff by complete, complete shock. We were not, not prepared and there was a… there was a sense of despair on our part like my God, what happened,” said Solomon Plains Memorial Jr. High School Activities Director Brian Fischer.

The family says a hospital Cat scan could not detect the stroke-inducing clot. The limited window of opportunity passed to receive the powerful clot-dissolving drug tPA. After nearly 24-hours at Wilkes-Barre General, John was transferred to Penn State Hershey Medical Center for several days where he received a recommendation from his son, Jason. “My son, who is a doctor there, said to me Dad, there is a great facility John Heinz. They do fantastic work. We’re going to send you back there.”

John was transferred to John Heinz Rehabilitation Hospital in Wilkes-Barre Township. Faced with the prospect of six hours of in-patient therapy per day, John knew it was gut-check time. “You can lay in this bed and feel sorry for yourself or you could get up tomorrow and do the best you can and hope that you will get better.”

John is home now after completing a nine week hospital stay but his rehabilitation to regain more of his speech and mobility is far from finished. As a stroke survivor, he has a message for anyone who may face a similar fate. “As bad as you feel don’t feel sorry for yourself. Just do what the trained experts are trying to do to help you and you will succeed. Don’t ever, ever, ever give up.” John had a few early symptoms indicating his stroke including severe headache, blurred or double vision and confusion. Many others experience the classic symptoms that help make up the acronym FAST. F = facial droop. A = arm weakness. S = speech difficulty. T means it is time to call 911. Remember, time equals brain.