Nebraska woman recognizes her stroke symptoms during Zoom call

LINCOLN, Neb. — A Nebraska woman participating in a video conference call knew something was wrong when she saw herself on camera. Ann Tillery realized quickly that she was having a stroke and called 911, perhaps saving her life.

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The Lincoln resident was on a Zoom call on May 18 with members of Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s office advocating for the Alzheimer’s Association, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

“The technology was working fine, but then, in just a split second, my world changed,” Tillery told the newspaper on Thursday.

Tillery was at the University of Nebraska Foundation office, but alone in a conference room, the Journal Star reported. While watching the Zoom screen, Tillery said she noticed the left side of her face begin to droop, the newspaper reported. She said her left arm felt heavy and she was beginning to slur in her speech.

“My mother had Alzheimer’s and it felt as though I was starting to get really emotional,” Tillery told KLKN. “I’ve told this story hundreds of times and I thought this was odd. It was just right away that my speech started to slur, and I could see on my screen that my face was drooping.”

Tillery finished her presentation quickly and then called 911 from her cellphone, the television station reported.

Tillery adhered to the “F.A.S.T” rule advocated by the American Heart Association: face drooping, arm weakness, speech is slurred, and time to call 911.

Tillery, who had fallen before making the call, gave as much information as possible to the 911 dispatcher, the Journal Star reported. A dispatcher contacted the receptionist at the foundation’s front desk, and Tillery was rushed to a hospital.

“I knew I had a very limited time to act if I was going to have the best chance of recovery,” Tillery told the newspaper. “Luckily, I did have my cellphone.”

Tillery had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke and spent 11 days at an area hospital, KLKN reported. A hemorrhagic stroke means a blood vessel had ruptured in a person’s brain, causing spontaneous bleeding.

“She actually thought it was the right side of her face that was having the trouble at first,” Dr. Quinn Willet told the television station. “But when she was evaluated upon arrival to the ER, they were able to show her either with a phone or mirror her own face and she was really surprised.”

Tilley said she had virtually no control of the left side of her body after suffering the stroke the Journal Star reported. She was unable to chew on the left side of her mouth, and her left arm and left leg felt heavy, the newspaper reported.

“It didn’t feel numb; it was just like heavy, dead weight,” Tillery said.

After several days in the intensive care unit, Tillery spent 11 days in inpatient care working with occupational, physical and speech therapists, according to the Journal Star.

Tillery had some motivation to improve. She wanted to attend this year’s Cattlemen’s Ball in her hometown of Columbus, which was held last weekend.

“Just the second I walked into the room I knew she was going to make great progress,” Alyssa Cook, a speech therapist who worked with Tillery at the hospital, told KLKN. “She just had so much motivation to get home and get to the Cattlemen’s Ball.”

Tillery made it to the event, according to the Journal Star.

“Now seeing how her hands are moving, it’s amazing to see the recovery,” Stacey Bostwick, an occupational therapist, told KLKN. “She’s definitely a patient that’s put in the work.”

“I’m doing this so that people can really take a moment and learn how to spot a stroke,” Tillery told the television station. “Because so often when we get into a Zoom meeting we’re worried about the technology.”