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The Importance of Listening to Warning Signs

The Importance of Listening to Warning Signs

How One Woman’s Emergency Department Visit Led to a Critical Diagnosis

As a wife, mom, and the principal at Farmington High School, Jamie LaMonds, 47, juggles a number of roles, responsibilities, and activities on any given day. It’s the standard operating procedure for many women – tending to others often means your own health and needs can get overlooked. That was the case for LaMonds. The signs – blurred vision, disorientation, migraine headaches, and numbness in her right hand and leg – had been happening on and off for months. But it reached a turning point one fall morning in September 2023.

“While getting ready to leave the house for work, I felt like I had dropped something, so I started looking around for whatever it was,” said LaMonds. “That’s when my husband, Sam, asked me what I was looking for, and I honestly couldn’t remember. So, he figured I was just messing with him. I felt dizzy and had numbness in my right hand and leg. And then the right side of my face started drooping.”

LaMonds figured she’d just make an appointment with a doctor in St. Louis and deal with it later. It didn’t seem like a true emergency; however, LaMonds’ condition worried her husband, Sam LaMonds, so he insisted they go to the hospital.

“Sam drove me straight to Parkland Health Center’s emergency department,” said LaMonds. “I was clearly in denial, even bringing my lunch with me, because I assumed I’d be headed to work shortly after getting checked out at the hospital.”

LaMonds also wasn’t sure about going to Parkland Health Center. “I didn’t know if they could address this. I also figured I’d have to wait six hours before being seen, but it wasn’t like that at all,” she said.

Parkland Health Center’s emergency department evaluates, treats, and admits or transfers patients of all ages and needs.

As soon as the emergency department staff saw LaMonds, they took her back to an exam room, where she was met by Dr. Robert Hoppes, an emergency medicine physician. He ordered a computed tomography (CT) scan and reassured LaMonds if they detected something significant, they’d fly her to BJC Health Care’s Barnes-Jewish Hospital for advanced care.
“Our emergency medicine team is well-trained in recognizing the signs of a potential stroke,” said Dr. Hoppes. “When it comes to stroke, we know time lost is brain lost, so the sooner we can identify a possible stroke, the better. We have the training and resources to administer treatment and, if necessary, request a transfer to BJC Health Care’s Barnes-Jewish Hospital for advanced intervention with a neurologist.”

The CT scan indicated LaMonds suffered a transient ischemic stroke (TIA), which is a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. Thankfully, the clot usually dissolves on its own or gets dislodged with symptoms resolving in just a few minutes. Although a TIA doesn’t cause permanent damage, it’s a ‘warning stroke,’ signaling a possible full-blown stroke ahead.

“Jamie and her husband did the right thing by coming to Parkland Health Center’s emergency department, where we were able to diagnose and treat her with the goal of preventing a future stroke,” said Dr. Hoppes. “She was really fortunate, because a TIA is just as serious as an ischemic stroke.”

Dr. Hoppes admitted LaMonds for an overnight stay at the hospital to make sure she didn’t have another TIA. He also wanted to run some additional tests to see if she had any underlying issues that may have caused the TIA.

“During my hospital stay, the staff educated us on the criteria to help us detect another possible TIA or stroke event in the future,” said LaMonds. “They also didn’t find any issues with the testing, so the other concern was my TIA might have been stress related.”

LaMonds was discharged after her overnight stay with orders for medication and to see a primary care physician. She was relieved her condition wasn’t worse. She also knew she needed to work to reduce her stress and anxiety.

“I love what I do, so it was hard to accept that stress from work could be partly to blame,” said LaMonds. “The first couple of weeks were scary, but fear is a powerful motivator that’s pushing me to work on managing my stress. I’m retraining my brain to reduce my anxiety; no longer fixating on the things I can’t control; and wearing a smartwatch to keep tabs on my activity levels.”

In the four months since her TIA, LaMonds is doing much better. She’s living with greater awareness about her condition and the associated risks.

“I’m really grateful for the phenomenal care I received from Dr. Hoppes and his staff at Parkland Health Center,” said LaMonds. “It’s been an eye-opening and humbling experience – they busted the stereotype I had about smaller, community hospitals and the quality care they provide.”

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