Nursed Back to Health
Neuro Team Cares for One of Their Own
In January, when 43-year-old Kim Clark started to experience stroke symptoms — chest pain, tingling in her left arm, foggy thinking — she initially dismissed them. Which is a little surprising, given Kim is an RN and the patient care manager of the neurology floor at Christian Hospital. “As a nurse, you don’t think that this can happen to you,” she explains. “I distinctly remember thinking at the time ‘I see stroke patients all day long, I know the symptoms. But there’s no way this is happening to me right now.”
But it did happen. When the tingling in her arm turned to numbness, she quickly made her way to Christian Hospital’s emergency room. By that time, her arm was completely limp and she wasn’t able to move it. A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off. When this happens, brain cells are deprived of oxygen and begin to die, which causes abilities controlled by that area of the brain, such as memory and muscle control, to be lost.
After an EKG, a CT scan and an assessment on the NIH Stroke Scale, her neurologist ordered an infusion of tissue plasminoen activator or TPA, a drug that busts through blood clots. “Ten minutes into the infusion, I was able to move my arm again,” she recalled.
Maria St. George, RN, a hospital supervisor who has known Kim for many years, took charge of communication with Kim’s family. “I knew that Kim was getting excellent care in the ER. I was more concerned about her children and her sister, who was distraught. You have to look after the family as well as the patient,” Maria says.
Kim was moved to the ICU. “They gave me amazing care, but it wasn’t because I’m a nurse manager on staff. I actually had never met anyone on that team before.” A day later, she moved to the 10th floor neurology unit — the unit she manages — where everyone knew her.
Shabori Smith, RN, a stroke-certified nurse on the 10th floor, saw Kim’s name on the chart and asked, “Is this my Kim? Our Kim?” It’s that kind of teamwork and camaraderie that Kim has cultivated among her staff.
Initially, Kim thought, “They’re going to let me bend the rules. But that didn’t happen. I was just like any other patient in their care. I wasn’t their boss. I was Kim, the patient who’d just had a stroke, and needed their help. I was so proud of my staff. They met me where I was. That’s why I love this hospital.”
“Having Kim as a patient was nerve-wracking at first. I wasn’t nervous about taking care of her and providing excellent care to her, like I do to every other patient. I was nervous because she’s my manager,” Shabori recalled. “But Kim was a great patient, even when I kept bothering her every four hours, doing neuro checks, and explaining to her the things that I was doing,” Shabori says with a laugh.
Christian Hospital is consistently recognized for its excellence in stroke care. “We’re always on the top of stroke care, and I think it’s because we stay so focused. All our neurologists, nurses and other specialists are all great,” Shabori explains. It’s this kind of dedication that led to Christian Hospital receiving a Stroke Honor Roll rating of Gold Plus from the American Stroke Association.
In addition to world-class clinical skills, the stroke team excels as compassionate caregivers and team members. Maria credits Kim for creating such a caring environment: “Kim shows a lot of compassion, not only for her patients, but also for her staff. She is a true leader. No matter how busy it is, everyone works together because we’re all here for the same purpose and that’s excellent patient care.”
Just a few short weeks after her stroke, Kim was back at work, managing the neuro team. “I’m just blessed to be here, back where I belong. Having gone through it, I just have that much more of an appreciation of the level of care we provide every patient, every day.”
Hear other patient stories or read the current issue of Christian Cares magazine.
Christian Hospital and Northwest HealthCare, members of BJC HealthCare, provide world-class medical care to the communities of North County, Greater St. Louis County and Southern Illinois.