After driving his wife to a quilt shop in Ozark, Darrell Figy went to the post office. While mailing his letter he noticed a dip in his step.
"I drove home, staggered into the house, grabbed the phone and laid down," he says.
He called his wife and told her he couldn't pick her up because his left leg wasn't working. She had a friend drive her home immediately.
"My wife insisted that I go to the hospital, but I said I would go to the doctor," says Figy.
She drove him to CoxHealth Center Ozark to see Dr. James Hunter, their family medicine physician.
"I couldn't get out of the car, my leg wasn't functioning at all. By this time I had trouble holding my left arm up," says Figy. "The clinic's staff called 911 for an ambulance."
In the state of Missouri, emergency medical services are required to transport acute stroke patients to a designated stroke center, such as CoxHealth, rather than the closest facility.
"Research shows that patients transported to these centers, rather than simply the nearest hospital, have high survival rates," says Dr. Scott Duff, a neurologist and medical director of the CoxHealth Stroke Center.
At the Cox South Emergency department, Dr. Duff told Figy he was having a stroke. "A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted and brain tissue is starved for oxygen and nutrients," says Dr. Duff.
Figy was given tPA, a clot-busting drug. "Time is critical, because tPA must be given within three hours after stroke symptoms start," says Dr. Duff. "This drug jumpstarts blood flow back to the brain and reduces the potential of permanent disability."
"Within 10 minutes I felt better - that's how fast the medicine worked," says Figy.
Figy stayed at Cox South overnight. It was determined that Figy had patent foramen ovale (PFO) or a small hole in his heart.
"A PFO can allow a clot to cross over from the right side to the left side of the heart. If it travels to the brain it can cause a stroke," says Dr. Stephen Kuehn, cardiologist.
The next week Figy underwent surgery. "Using a catheter inserted in the groin, a small double umbrella was positioned to cover both sides of the hole," explains Dr. Kuehn.
"A lot of things worked together for me and I am very fortunate," says Figy. "If something's not right, don't be afraid to call 911 and take a ride to the hospital."