Mike Strong had just turned 65 years old in the summer of 2020, when he and his wife Kathy decided to take their fifth wheel and go camping along the river, just outside of Estes Park. “We had no stress,” Kathy said. “We just kicked back beside the river and relaxed for the weekend.”
Sunday morning, July 19, they packed up, hooked the camper to their truck, and headed for home in Longmont. About a mile away from home, Mike got really quiet. As they pulled closer, Mike turned down a narrow street – something that was very unusual when pulling a large camper trailer.
“Mike took his right hand off the wheel and started shaking it and saying, ‘Weird, weird, weird, weird,’” Kathy said. “That’s when he started talking gibberish, which he never does, and I told him to pull over into a parking lot. I knew something was wrong.”
Kathy called 911. An ambulance arrived and took Mike to Longmont United Hospital, where doctors had already been alerted to the situation. They quickly gave him a CAT scan and was administered alteplase (tPA), which is a medication used to break up blood clots and improve blood flow to the brain.
“I had never heard of tPA,” Kathy shared. “My Dad had had a stroke years earlier and there was nothing like that at that time. That’s when they started telling me it was a good thing that I had called 911 and gotten him there so quickly so he could receive the tPA medicine.”
Doctors discovered a blood clot deep in Mike’s brain and decided to fly him by helicopter to St. Anthony Hospital. By the time Mike arrived, the physician was very pleased with how well Mike was doing.
Mike’s care team carefully explained Mike’s condition to Kathy. “The nurses and doctors were awesome. They explained everything that was happening. They were so accommodating and knowledgeable,” Kathy said. Feeling exhausted, Kathy went home for the night, prepared to return to St. Anthony's Hospital bright and early the next morning.
The next day, when the phone rang and the caller ID said, “St. Anthony Hospital,” Kathy’s heart sank. She hesitantly answered the phone and on the other end of the line was an alert and chipper voice, “Hi! How are you?” Kathy laughed, “It was Mike, and he sounded just perfect. He was talking up a storm and doing just fine.” They released Mike from the hospital to home at 3 p.m. on Monday.
Kathy believes quick thinking made the difference. She knew her husband well and knew something was really wrong with him. “I don’t feel like a hero for calling 911,” she explained. “I just did what I was supposed to do. I knew an ambulance would get him there much faster than I could. And they were waiting for him when he arrived.”
From Mike’s symptom onset to the time he received tPA was approximately 45 minutes. “That medicine absolutely did its job,” Kathy added. Mike continues to recover and only has a slight stutter when fatigued or frustrated. “It was a big life-changing experience for both of us. He’s doing really well, and I’m doing fine because he’s okay.”