May has a whole new meaning for Alexis Dillon this year. The month is designated as Stroke Awareness Month, and the Bon Secours emergency department nurse can now understand what many of her past patients have gone through better than ever before.
Dillon had just finished a 12-hour shift in June 2018 and went home to take a nap. However, the 34-year-old woke up to severe head pain and was unable to turn her head from side to side.
“My gut instinct was that it was a bleed in my brain,” Dillon recalled. “But I prayed real quick. ‘Lord, please don’t let me die, because I have a 6-year-old.’”
Knowing how crucial time was in such a situation, Dillon had her aunt drive her to the ER as she called a fellow nurse to let the hospital know to prepare for her arrival. As a result, the medical team was able to jump into action the minute she hit the door – treating one of their own who, as it turns out, was suffering a life-threatening hemorrhagic stroke.
This occurs when a weakened vessel ruptures and bleeds into the brain, pressing on the surrounding tissue. The American Stroke Association says hemorrhagic strokes account for about 13 percent of all strokes.
“I don’t remember a whole lot about what happened from there,” the nurse said. “I know some of my best friends in the world took the best care of me that I could hope for. They got my blood pressure down and my pain was under control, and did exactly the right testing to determine where I needed to be.”
Two weeks, and plenty of time spent in the ICU, Dillon returned home to her husband, Daniel, and daughter, Livie. It only took about two months total for her to return to work in the emergency department where she often serves on the medical team rushing to provide life-saving treatment for stroke patients.
“They say that 25% or so of people who have these won’t even make it to the hospital alive, and then, 40 percent will die in the first two weeks. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m very, very thankful. I feel very blessed.”
Because she feels so lucky, Dillon hasn’t just stopped at helping treat stroke survivors as part of her job. She also has taken it upon herself to raise awareness, joining the Upstate American Heart Association’s “Go Red for Women” campaign. She even started her own team for the AHA’s 2019 Heart Walk. Her team alone raised more than $2,500, helping make Bon Secours St. Francis Health System one of this year’s top 3 fundraising teams at the event.
Dillon says she’s just happy to be helping others – however she can – both in and out of the Emergency Department.
“I am grateful to be alive today to share my story!”