Working Miracles: Acting fast during a stroke saves lives

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PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - One local woman recently suffered a massive stroke, but her outcome is being called miraculous. Doctors say in addition to divine intervention, it was quick thinking that saved her life.

At the Nunnery household in Panama City lives a family that believes in miracles.

"Everybody's walking in and going, 'I can't believe you're cooking pasta!'" Brenda Nunnery said.

She had a massive stroke just two months ago.

"Within five minutes I was laying on my bed flopping like a fish, trying to hold my head up," she said, recalling that day.

She credited her husband's quick thinking and Bay Medical Sacred Heart's team for saving her life and much more.

"I'm lucky I'm not paralyzed I'm lucky that I have my vision," she said. "And I'm very blessed."

Bay Medical is a certified stroke center. The head of the stroke program, Paula Gould, said acting fast is the key.

Brenda Nunnery called her husband, Dr. Phillip Nunnery, who took her to the hospital immediately. Hours, even minutes, can make the difference between a miracle and a life of disability.

"A lot of times they will lay down and say, 'Oh I just need to rest,'" Gould said. "Always call 911 first for your family member because the sooner that they get in and get treatment the better the quality of life will be in the future."

Gould said one in four stroke victims have suffered a stroke before. Stroke used to be the second leading cause of death in the country. It's now the fifth.

"We are doing some things right," she said.

While doctors nationwide have made strides in education, doctors say there's still more work to do.

"Yes we'll probably see anywhere from five to 20 of those a day," Dr. Frank Merritt of Bay Medical said.

Every day he said he sees someone experiencing something along the stroke spectrum. A stroke prevents oxygen or glucose from traveling to the brain. When treatment is delayed, it can inflict serious damage on the brain, which can lead to a range of disability.

When patients come into the emergency room, they are evaluated to determine what kind of stroke they are having. If it's determined they are not bleeding in the brain, then they can deliver TPA, or "clot busters."

"I have not seen a stroke victim today," Dr. Merritt said. "It's been a good day."

To Dr. Nunnery, the team at Bay Medical has been colleagues, friends and now miracle workers who saved his wife's life.

"Everybody worked together," said Nurse Lauren Abbott, who played a big role in Brenda's treatment. "Yeah, a lot of prayers. A lot of doctors were here. Everybody just worked together."

Now in the Nunnery household there are more prayers, this time of thanks.

"I mean I know it sounds hokey, but it's true," Brenda Nunnery said. "I mean, you really just, I'm just so grateful, I'm so grateful for this second chance at life."

To learn how you can spot a stroke in yourself or a loved one, see the links attached to this article.