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Kelly's Stroke Story

May 28, 2019

How Peppa Pig helped one Shelby patient detect her own stroke

Kelly's Story There are few things Kelly McLendon enjoys more than reading to the two and three year olds at First Baptist of Pelham. “After 10 years of working full-time as an office receptionist, I am now a child care worker a few hours each week in the preschool department of my church, loving every minute of it,” Kelly says. “I suppose I am like a grandmother figure to those kids because they lead me to my rocking chair when I enter the room".

On Friday, February 8, Kelly woke up thinking it would be another ordinary day: get ready, make the short journey from her home in Helena to the church and kickoff the morning by reading a few books to the children. On the docket was one of the Peppa Pig books from the super popular children’s series.

But even as she was preparing to leave home, Kelly felt off.

“I felt a bit dizzy and not very steady on my feet,” Kelly describes. “I thought the uneasiness would pass as it usually does."

A half hour later as she was reading to her audience of engaged children, she realized she was actually having trouble reading the words that were written on the page. "Everything started to feel disconnected and I knew something wasn't right.”

Then, she noticed something unusual with her arm.

“There was a lot of thinking involved in trying to get my arm to move,” Kelly says.

Hayley, Kelly’s adult daughter, happened to be in the room when everything began to unfold. Kelly asked to be driven to the Pelham fire station only a couple of miles down the road, essentially thinking she needed her blood pressure checked.

Kelly's StoryKelly pictured with Emily Murray. Without her immediate action, Kelly’s story might have had a different ending. “Initially, I thought something might be off with her sugar or potassium,” Hayley says. “It never occurred to me that she was having a stroke.”

Hayley hurried off to move the car closer to the door but within moments it become clear to Kelly, only 57 years old, she needed immediate medical attention, and she needed it fast. Kelly knew someone should call 911, and got the attention of another adult worker, Emily Murray, and suddenly realized she was no longer able to clearly communicate , as her words were now beginning to slur as they left her lips. Thankfully Emily acted promptly, and as teachers led the children out of the classroom, church staff members entered to offer comfort, support and prayer over Kelly as they waited for the paramedics and ambulance to arrive.

It wasn’t long before Kelly found herself in the ER at Shelby Baptist Medical Center. Caleb Martin, one of Shelby’s emergency RNs, was there that morning and recalls the moment Kelly entered the ER.

“[Kelly] was visibly frustrated at her symptoms,” Caleb remembers. “It appeared she knew what she wanted to say, but had difficulty forming the words and speaking sentences.”

Kelly with Members of the First Baptist Church Pelham Staff and Family Kelly with members of the First Baptist Church Pelham staff and family who offered comfort and prayers awaiting paramedics' arrival. Pictured from left are Hayley, Crystal, Emily, Pat, and Matt. Not available for photo but vital to Kelly’s care that day were Sharon and Melissa. In those scary moments, Kelly never lost consciousness and was completely aware of everything happening around her.

“[The staff in the ER] was fabulous,” Kelly recalls. “They were able to treat me so quickly. As my grandmother would say, there was no hem-hawing around.”

In fact, at the order of Dr. Joseph Tubbs (one of Shelby’s ER physicians), Caleb administrated tPA, a drug which restores blood flow to the brain and may help stroke patients recover more fully, in 25 minutes – Shelby’s fastest record to date.

“As soon as Dr. Tubbs saw me, he immediately let me know what was going on, what they were doing, what could happen, etc.”, Haley says. “Everyone involved was very attentive & very patient as they listened to her questions & addressed her worries.”

Stroke is one of the leading causes of serious long-term disabilities in the United States (cdc.gov), but amazingly, Kelly did not require any stroke recovery therapy and with medication is expected to make a complete recovery. Doctors assured her that the occasional word stumble and "new smile" are very temporary. Only one week later, she was back to First Baptist Pelham to finally finish reading the Peppa Pig book to the children in class.

Kelly celebrating her 57th birthday Kelly celebrating her 57th birthday three weeks after the stroke. “It was like a little triumphant thing for me,” Kelly says. A few days later she had another triumph, celebrating her 57th birthday surrounded by her family.

She even recently traveled to Kentucky to compete with her Sweet Adeline chorus, Harmony Hills. Kelly said practicing the lyrics to one of their performance pieces was the ideal speech therapy during those first days of recovery, as well as giving her confidence a big boost.

“I am very blessed,” Kelly states. “On that particular Friday morning, God placed me in the perfect circumstances and perfect situations where I could pay attention at the perfect time. I hope sharing my story will urge others to get to the ER immediately when they recognize ANY symptom of stroke. Had I been home I probably would have waited to see if I would feel better. I certainly would not have been reading aloud, noticing problems with speech. And on that specific day there wouldn't have been anyone at home to observe changes in my appearance or behavior. And I give God all the glory. Feeling dizzy, I could have stayed home that morning but praise God I didn't! Perhaps being offered this opportunity to share my experience is one reason why ".

Hayley, overjoyed with her mother’s progress & overall outcome, says she walked away from this experience having learned a great deal.

Kelly with members of Harmony Hills Chorus Kelly, top left with members of Harmony Hills Chorus before taking 2nd place honors in Regional competition April 6. “A stroke doesn't always look like what you think”, Hayley warns. “Anything that you think seems or feels unusual, you should have it checked out.”

Every 4 minutes, someone in the United States dies of a stroke (cdc.gov). That’s why it’s critical to take early action if you or someone you know might be having a stroke. Time is everything.

““Time is brain” is a popular phrase associated with stroke, because the interventions need to be done quickly in order to avoid permanent brain damage,” Caleb says. “For that reason, everyone needs to understand that stroke-like symptoms should be evaluated immediately.”


Memorize warning signs of stroke listed below, and remember to BE FAST! BE FAST Stroke graphic