Local Paramedic, 38, Survives Stroke and Encourages “Don’t Delay Treatment!”

Brandon, FL – Local paramedic, Brian Stairs of Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue, has treated and transported many stroke patients in his career, but at 38, he never thought he would be one of those patients.

“I was on duty early Tuesday morning, October 26th. I woke up at 1 a.m. having an issue with the left side of my face and a sore left arm,” explains Stairs. “I got up from bed feeling a little lightheaded and then I looked in the mirror: The left side of my face had drooped.”

Stairs was in denial. “I knew what was happening but I did not want to believe that I was the one having a stroke. Being a paramedic and seeing the effects that stroke has had on some of the people I treat, it hit me that I needed to get to the hospital quickly.”

Stairs immediately called his Rescue Lieutenant to take him to Brandon Regional Hospital, A Certified Primary Stroke Center and an American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® 2010 Gold Achievement Award recipient.

Upon his arrival to The Emergency Center, Stairs could not move his left leg and could not speak. Stairs knew it was a stroke and became even more scared of what the effects would be. Immediately stroke protocols were set in motion. Within an hour, from the time he arrived, Brian was receiving tPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator).

tPA, a thrombolytic agent, can reduce the effects of stroke and reduce permanent disability. It is critical that anyone believing they are experiencing a stroke get to the nearest emergency center as soon as possible: tPA should be given to a person within the first three hours after the symptoms start! Stairs credits his knowledge of the signs and symptoms of a stroke, tPA and the “time” factor to saving his life. “Right now, I have diminished grip in my left hand, slight numbness in the left arm and leg, and I have to walk with a cane, but with rehabilitation, we expect a complete recovery.”

Stairs sat with his wife Terry and their good friends, Ann and Hayden Cameron, at Brandon Regional Hospital expressing their joy on Stairs’ quick thinking. “I knew what he was going through,” explains Hayden Cameron, a retired paramedic and best man at the Stairs’ wedding. “About two years ago I had a stroke, but I was 54. I could not believe it when Terry called us to tell us that Brian was in the hospital and had experienced a stroke.”

Stairs is happy that he will be able to go back to work and resume a “normal” life as a paramedic, husband and father of six. He knows with rehabilitation and the support of his family and close friends, he will recover, but Stairs realizes he has to make some drastic changes in his life. His dad, at 30, experienced a heart attack and at 49, suffered a stroke. “Because of my family history, my high cholesterol and my stroke, I am going to change my life,” Stairs states with a look of true commitment. “I am going to change to healthy eating habits and reduce the stress in my life.”

Stairs wants others to learn from his experience: Know the signs and symptoms of a stroke and know that “time is of the essence.” “It was important to me that I was taken to The Emergency Center at Brandon Regional Hospital: I knew that time was critical and that the staff at Brandon Regional Hospital had the necessary protocols to get tPA administered as soon as possible.”

For more information on the signs and symptoms of a stroke and to learn more about tPA, please visit americanheart.org.

Brandon Regional Hospital is a 407-bed acute care facility with a Bariatric Surgery Center of Excellence, Certified Primary Stroke Center, American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s “Get With The Guidelines® 2010 Gold Achievement Award” recipient, “3 Star” rating from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons and a Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. More than 74,000 babies have been born and cared for in The Baby Suites and our specialized centers, including The Neuroscience Center and The Heart and Vascular Center, offer the latest diagnosis and treatment options for neurological, spine and cardiac conditions. The hospital also offers emergency services with public access to average wait times and the latest in technology, including robotic surgery for gynecological and urological conditions and CyberKnife for the non-invasive treatment of select cancers.