Tony’s brain is full power thanks to a jump start

Anthony Sciluffo, a 36-year-old resident of Marion, is all too familiar with a failing battery. He works for a living in Johnston City, assembling batteries for large commercial equipment, from bobcats to mining equipment. You could say his life revolves around energy as he and his wife have three daughters. Not to mention he’s handy at church, for family, and for friends.

But in April of 2014, he experienced his own power failure when he suffered a stroke.

It was on his way to work. “All I remember is tunnel vision. I don’t even remember getting to work,” Anthony said. He did have the presence of mind to call his wife, Sara, who keenly remembered FAST. Facial drooping. Arm weakness. Slurred speech. Time. “He was definitely slurring his speech. I asked if his face was drooping. It was,” she said. “I asked him to lift his arms, and he couldn’t.”
Thankfully, his parents who lived nearby, drove to his workplace and took him to Herrin Hospital, one of two primary stroke centers in southern Illinois.

Timing is everything when it comes to a stroke. The faster you react to it, the less damage it does to the brain. “Ideally, we’d like the call to be made to 911,” said SIH Stroke Coordinator, Greg Smith. “It is critical that we advocate for our friends, family and loved ones to make this call at the very first moment we recognize someone exhibiting even one sign or symptom of a stroke.”

There’s a very brief three-hour clock that starts at the time any symptom begins. It’s key to whether a clot-busting medication (tPA) can be administered before damage is done. Unfortunately, Anthony didn’t make the window to receive tPA this time.

It caused some effects to his right side and he had trouble walking. The next course was outpatient rehabilitation, a recovery that would take three to four months. “By the time he went back to work,” said Sara, “you would never know he had a stroke.”

Could it really happen again?

What many don’t know is that survivors of a stroke have an increased risk of having another one. In fact, among the estimated 700,000 people with stroke in the US each year, 200,000 of them are considered recurrent strokes.

Almost two years to the day, it struck Anthony again. This time he called Sara to say his hand was numb. “I was immediately on my way,” she said. “By the time we got to Herrin Hospital, his symptoms got worse. He started talking funny and he looked funny.”

Being more in tune with the issue, this time he made the three-hour window. The emergency room staff, using an innovative telemedicine system, dialed in stroke neurologist, Dr. Alejandro Hornik of SIH Brain & Spine Institute. “He was excellent,” said Sara. “All of this was happening to Anthony, but Dr. Hornik was talking to me over the monitor, keeping me calm and gathering all the information about his symptoms.”

“It’s so important for us to talk to the person witnessing a stroke,” said Hornik. “They can tell us when the patient was last seen well, which helps us determine if tPA can be administered.”

Anthony and Sara described the clot-busting medicine as completely reversing the stroke symptoms he was experiencing. They were amazed.

What we learn

Because of their quick action, Anthony is lucky to have left the hospital symptom free from a health emergency that is the #1 preventable cause of disability.

Through it all, “my fear was not being able to take care of my kids,” said Anthony, acknowledging the importance of his work at the battery factory. Sara’s knowledge of FAST, helped save her husband and family.

He, and those around him, learned to pay attention when the body’s giving off warning signs. “I’m lucky to be alive,” he expressed. He is a walking testimonial to never ignore the symptoms of a stroke.

SIH Stroke Network

Herrin Hospital and Memorial Hospital of Carbondale are two accredited Primary Stroke Centers in southern Illinois. They along with seven other regional hospitals make up this allied network in the fight against stroke.