Knowing Each Minute’s Delay Was Dangerous, Jane Marcus Didn’t Hesitate

Jane Marcus When her lip and arm began to tingle, Jane Marcus had a feeling she was having a stroke, so she acted fast to ask for help—at Stanford’s Stroke Center.

Jane Marcus was brushing her teeth one night in January when the left side of her lips and tongue started to tingle. And her left eye “began to do weird things and lights were flashing,” she remembers. She began to think that she was having a stroke. She’d had an aunt who lived for many years after a stroke with slurred speech, a droopy mouth and a cane as support for walking.

At 64, Marcus was not without some health issues. Two years earlier, she’d discovered she had high blood pressure, a surprise because she’d always worried that her blood pressure was too low. But she’d made changes—cutting back on salt, watching her diet in other ways and, later, adding medication to her regime. She’d also retired around the same time, spending more time at the family’s home in Mendocino County.

That’s where she was that night. She called out to her husband to tell him she thought she was having a stroke “and he sprang into action and called 911,” she said. By now, she couldn’t control her left arm or leg. An ambulance arrived quickly to take her to the nearest hospital where, within an hour, physicians determined that her stroke was being caused by a blood clot. That called for treatment with tPA, a blood thinner with a good history of breaking up clots if delivered within a certain window of time. She asked to be taken for further treatment to the Stanford Stroke Center. That ride was by helicopter.

Once at Stanford, Marcus had more tests to take a closer look at activity in her brain. She went home the next day to begin her recovery. She’s regained most of her physical function except in the part of her brain right where the clot was and the part of the brain that makes sense of the images processed by the cornea and retina. Marcus’ ability to process visual information on the left side of each eye is still impaired. “That affects the peripheral vision,” said Marcus’ neurological rehabilitation therapist Margaret Dougherty. She’s been working with Marcus to teach her strategies on how to manage the cascade of visual information. “She’s retraining her brain,” Dougherty said.

Marcus is able to cook again, something that gives her great joy. And she’s sure that she’ll master the techniques that Dougherty has taught her to a level that will allow her to drive again. “I would love to be able to do that again,” she said, “and I have every confidence I’ll be able to.”  

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