DERBY, Kan. (KSNT) — Before November 2020, you could likely find golf buddies Mark Ward and Kenneth Shalue on the green at the Derby Golf & Country Club most days of the week.
The pair of Air Force veterans met years ago on the golf course at McConnell Air Force Base.
On November 2, 2020, the pair were playing on the 12th hole on the Derby course when Ward, 73, dropped his putter.
Shalue asked what was wrong. Ward insisted he was OK.
“He was reaching for it, but he wasn’t getting there,” Shalue remembers.
Shalue asked Ward to lift his arms. One arm came up, the other did not.
“When he looked up at me, the side of his face was all drooped down and his eyes were kind of glassy. I know people say that if you have a stroke, your face droops. But I didn’t realize how dramatic it was,” Shalue said.
Shalue correctly identified that his friend was experiencing a stroke and called 911. An ambulance drove up on the fairway to retrieve Ward.
“When they put him in in the ambulance, I didn’t think I’d see him again,” Shalue admits.
An ambulance took Ward to Ascension Via Christi St. Francis which boasts comprehensive stroke center status, an accreditation that has to be maintained and evaluated every two years. Simply put, the hospital has to have capabilities of providing interventional neuroradiology 24/7 and a system of care that goes from the 911 call all the way through the patient’s rehab after discharge from the hospital.
“Within a half hour I was at St. Francis and their stroke team was going to work on me,” Ward recalls.
With strokes, time is of the essence. Brain cells die with lack of blood flow during a stroke.
“By the time you reach the door of a hospital, and then receive that thrombolytic, or that clot-busting medication, you can save many, many millions of brain cells,” Dr. James Walker, director of stroke and neurocritical care at Ascension Via Christi, said.
Ward estimates he was given the clot-busting medication within an hour of his stroke.
“I’m sure that made a big difference in not being paralyzed,” Ward said.
Only two days later, Ward was recovering at home with the help of his wife and children. Shalue’s quick action likely preserved the quality of life Ward gets to enjoy post-stroke.
“My dad died of a stroke, so it helped make me, you know, just kind of remind myself to be aware,” Shalue said.
The acronym, FAST, has long been used to educate others on identifying stroke.
- F- Facial drooping. Does one side of the face droop? Ask the person to smile, does it appear lopsided?
- A-Arm weakness. Can the person lift both arms?
- S- Speech. Is their speech slurred or hard to understand? Ask a simple question, does their response sound garbled?
- T- Time to call 911. If the person exhibits any of the previous symptoms, call 911 and get them safely to the hospital.
Recently, “BE” was added to the front of the acronym to assess the person’s balance and eyes.
“Strokes can occur in different locations of the brain. So if you get a stroke in what we refer to as the posterior circulation, you can have signs that maybe aren’t as evident as the typical signs of a stroke,” Dr. Walker said.
Six months since his stroke, Ward goes to speech and physical therapy. He’s had to slow down his golf game and other active hobbies, like training a young German Shepherd dog.
The Toby Keith song, “Don’t Let the Old Man In” played at the end of the Clint Eastwood film, “The Mule” serves as Ward’s mantra in his stroke recovery.
“And I knew all of my life
That someday it would end
Get up and go outside
Don’t let the old man in.”
Ward and Shalue still golf together, although less often. Ward is focusing on his lower-impact hobbies, like playing the guitar. He learned the chords for “Don’t Let the Old Man In” and even performed it for friends and family at a gathering.