Cowichan Valley Citizen
For Patti Shea, the heart attack was just the beginning.
You may not recognize her name but odds are you’d recognize her voice.
Shea had been the morning host at 89.7 Juice FM but a heart attack in November 2015 and three subsequent strokes have sidelined her — for now. She’s working hard to get back into the broadcast booth but in the meantime she’s using some of her time away from work to raise awareness for the Heart and Stroke Foundation, as February is Heart and Stroke month.
“I’ve been off the air since Easter,” Shea said recently. “I’m trying my best to recover.”
Shea said her heart attack was just bad luck.
“I had a stent put in and I went back to work,” she said. But the heart attack was just the beginning.
“It was that that seemed to have caused the problems,” she explained.
“It was almost a year, it was November of 2016, I was looking forward to my one-year anniversary, my heart-attack-iversary, and I had a stroke. It was weird. I was at work. I was losing my speech; I could walk fine but I felt really odd, like I was a little bit drunk.”
Shea drove over to her doctor’s office and was given a stroke test, which she passed. But the doctor agreed she didn’t seem right so sent her off up the hospital for further testing.
“By the time I got to the hospital, I was passing out and vomiting in the triage lineup,” she said.
Shea said her symptoms were the same as an inner ear infection.
“But I stayed overnight and I went home and they gave me a prescription for antibiotics.”
The following week she saw the doctor and maintained it had not been an ear infection.
“This isn’t an inner ear thing, my arm and leg are affected. I’ve had a stroke,” she insisted.
A cat scan confirmed Shea’s suspicion.
She was treated as an outpatient and went back to work again two weeks following that first stroke.
“It was Easter weekend of 2017, six months later, that I was walking through the farmers’ market. My husband was there. He was eating a hot dog enjoying himself and I felt like the like the ground was unlevel. Then I realized, I know what this is, it’s another stroke.”
She said she did what she could to get to her husband and then to the car.
“I couldn’t have a stroke at the farmers’ market,” she related. “I would have been embarrassed to death.”
Half an hour later, while at the hospital, her symptoms had passed.
“It was the weirdest thing,” she said. Staff at Cowichan District Hospital consulted with a doctor in Victoria who said there was a 30 per cent chance she would have another stroke within three days. Instead of discharging her, they checked her in. Unfortunately the specialist was right.
“I had a great big awful stroke,” Shea said.
She was transported to Victoria General Hospital and spent three weeks on the head injury/stroke ward before checking herself out.
“It was a more hands-on approach in helping you recover from stroke,” she said, speaking glowingly about the care she received during her early days of recovery. But she wanted to be home with her dogs and cat and, of course, her husband.
“It has done me a world of good, the short time I was there, but it wasn’t for me,” she said.
Since then she’s had speech therapy and “a bunch of different stuff” in Victoria as an outpatient.
Not being able to walk at first, she had a wheelchair but progressed to a walker. Then a cane. Now she can walk unaided but still struggles with stairs.
She’s still working on her concentration and speech.
She’s also dropped 90 pounds since the heart attack.
According to the doctor, she said, the damage from the heart attack left a blood leakage that when left untreated formed clots that went to her brain causing the strokes.
Now she’s on blood thinners.
“It seems to be doing the trick,” she said. “I think that I am healed.”
The goal is to return to work once her speech and short term memory improve.
The last couple of years have been rocky for Shea but she’s glad she had access to the resources she did.
“There’s no place better to be than the Cowichan Valley. I could show you a list of doctors that I’ve seen. I’ve seen everybody between here and Victoria,” she said. “No matter what is wrong with me there always is somebody who is looking for an answer. I don’t get looked at in the hospital and then sprung out on my own. They make sure I am taken care of.”
The experience has left her with a great desire to help raise awareness during Heart and Stroke Month this February.
“I just want people to know that all your money doesn’t go to the hospital in Victoria or the hospital in Nanaimo. The money that’s raised here stays here and it makes a difference for patients when you’re in hospital in Victoria and you get released from hospital,” she said. “There is aftercare here.”
Being able to take advantage of that care has helped Shea with her recovery and she won’t soon forget it.
“When someone comes to your door in February, consider giving them a donation. It makes a difference,” she explained. “It makes a difference in the talent we have here in the Valley, it makes a difference in the way the patients are treated. It makes all the difference.”