Quick Action and Prompt Care by Parkwest Staff Helps Hotel Employee Combat a Stroke

Joanne Sherman pictured back at work.
Joanne Sherman considers herself to be lucky working behind the hotel desk again. She
is thankful for the amazing stroke care services she received at Parkwest Medical Center.

On a cold January night, several employees at a west Knoxville hotel arranged to stay overnight at the hotel because of inclement weather. It was safer than braving the icy roads in the storms.  Several staff members at Parkwest Medical Center, located just across the road, had the same idea.  Among them was Pam Sparks, RN, recently retired education coordinator for Parkwest. As she approached the check-out desk the next morning, a hotel employee asked Sparks if she  was a nurse. When she said yes, the employee asked if Sparks could look in on her colleague,  whom she suspected was having a stroke. The employee was Joanne Sherman, who was ending her graveyard shift when she began feeling “not quite right.” When she took a sip of water, she couldn’t swallow. When another employee entered the building, she tried to say “good morning,” but her words sounded slurred, which had never happened before.

Guardian Angel

Headshot of Pam Sparks, RN.
Pam Sparks, RN, Retired Education Coordinator

Sparks, who has almost 30 years of experience as a bedside nurse, quickly took action. “I asked her to tell me her name, i f she knew where she was and asked her to smile for me,”  Sparks says. “Her speech was garbled, and when she smiled, there was deviation on one side of her mouth. You could see one side drooping, so I asked her to stick out her tongue. When I asked her to squeeze my fingers, I could tell one side was weaker, confirming immediately that she was having a stroke.”

Sparks says that Sherman was able to stand and that she still had balance, meaning the stroke had affected her facial features, speech and her left hand at that point. Sherman says, “Everyone jumped right in and took care of me. One girl relieved me at the front  desk. I didn’t want to go in an ambulance, so a co-worker’s husband drove me. If I had been at home I probably would not have rushed to go in, I would have laid down and rested.”

At Parkwest

Headshot of Tennille Creekmore, RN.
Tennille Creekmore, RN, SCRN, Stroke Coordinator

Sherman was driven to Parkwest Medical Center for intervention and treatment. She arrived at the emergency department where she was evaluated and given a diagnostic CT scan and received tPA.  She was admitted to the critical care unit after the scan confirmed that she was having a stroke. Tennille Creekmore, RN, SCRN, stroke coordinator at Parkwest, says Sherman had an ischemic stroke, which means there was a blockage of a blood vessel preventing blood flow to the part of her brain that controlled speech. According to the American Stroke Association, 87 percent of strokes are ischemic. “A stroke can present itself in many different ways,” says Creekmore. “Signs of a stroke can vary from not being able to move one side of your body to not being able to speak or understand when spoken to. That’s why I teach “BE FAST,” which is an acronym for knowing the different signs of stroke.

“While we can pull out a clot from a large vessel, stroke can also happen in the small vessels, which is what this patient had,” Creekmore says. “That’s why tPA is so important, because it can reach those smaller vessels.” Creekmore explains that tPA is a clot-busting drug that can improve stroke symptoms. “It’s the gold standard of stroke care for patients who present with- in four and a half hours of symptom onset, and who meet a number of other criteria.” Luckily Sher- man met those criteria and arrived within the time frame to receive tPA. Creekmore says the fast- er someone having a stroke can get treatment, the better the outcome. “The longer we wait, the more brain cells die. The faster the treatment is administered, the better the chances of recovery. “That’s why I encourage people to call 911 immediately, even if the symptoms subside. The ambulance can begin working and give the emergency department notification that a stroke victim is en-route to the hospital, and this can greatly expedite care.”

Recovery and Reflection

Sherman stayed at Parkwest for three days. “It was scary,” she remembers. “ They took care of me right away. I got the stroke medicine and it worked. My speech also returned.”

“It’s just strange how everything happened,” recalls Sherman, who has no history of underlying health conditions or stroke. “There were other employees staying the night, too. If it wasn’t for that, I would have been by myself. When I tried to speak and say ‘good morning,’ that’s when I knew something was wrong. My words came out all garbled.”

She is thankful for the care she received at Parkwest, and to her co- workers for getting her the help she needed and bringing her hot meals at home while she recovered. She returned to work slowly in the weeks following, being careful not to lift heavy objects or move too quickly. Creekmore adds, “Mrs. Sherman is so blessed that one of our nurses was there in the moment.  I am proud of Pam for assessing the patient and encouraging her to come to the hospital. Pam  made a difference in this patient’s outcome, along with our ED staff, who did a fantastic job.”


BE FAST Infographic