by Cord Prettyman
Master Personal Trainer


Bigfork, Montana 59911


By Appointment Only

It’s a scene that still haunts me 25 years later. A woman, only 62 years-old, lying in bed in a nursing home in diapers, barely able to move and unable to speak or feed herself.

This once vibrant lady, who lived life with a twinkle in her eye, a quick wit, an easy laugh and an immense capacity to love, was a mere shadow of herself. Her ability to perform even the simplest of motor tasks had been suddenly extinguished by a massive stroke from which she would not recover. The tragedy of how her life ended still brings tears to my eyes … she was my mother.

The Centers for Disease Control says that approximately 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke every year. With a person dying every 4 minutes, strokes are fatal to approximately 15 percent of sufferers and leave tens of thousands more to lead a life of serious long-term disability.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or severely reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and food. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die.

Make no mistake, a stroke is a medical emergency and prompt treatment is crucial. Early action can minimize brain damage and potential complications.

There is good news in that strokes can be both treated and prevented. The key lies in knowing if you are at risk, recognizing the symptoms of a stroke and seeking quick medical care.

At greater risk are those who have a personal or family history of stroke or heart attack, are age 55 or older, African-American and are male. Women are usually older when they have strokes and are more likely to suffer a fatal incident.

Other risk factors include high blood pressure, cigarette smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke, cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL, diabetes and being overweight or obese. Physical inactivity, obstructive sleep apnea, cardiovascular disease, heavy consumption of alcohol, use of cocaine and methamphetamines and use of some birth control pills or hormone replacement therapies that include estrogen round out the Mayo Clinic risk list.

The Merck Manual states that most strokes begin suddenly, develop rapidly and cause brain damage within minutes. Less commonly, strokes may continue to worsen over many hours to days to in some cases weeks as a steadily enlarging area of brain tissue dies.

The impact of a stroke can be as innocuous as a headache or as final as sudden death. The severity and consequences depends on the type of stroke and the specific area of the brain affected.

When symptoms last for less than 24 hours and are followed by full recovery, the episode is known as a transient ischemic attack. Such an attack is a warning sign that an insufficient amount of blood supply is reaching the brain.

Tune in next week for the skinny on stroke symptoms, how to recognize a stroke and what to do for fast state-of-the-art medical care if you live in the Ute Pass area.

If you or a loved one were having a stroke, would you recognize the symptoms and know what to do? If not, the damage sustained could be irreversible, life changing or even fatal.

The Mayo Clinic says stroke is a medical emergency. Prompt treatment is crucial and early intervention can minimize brain damage and potential complications.

Pikes Peak Regional Hospital on their webpage says you need to “Act F.A.S.T.”

The F stands for Face. Ask the person to smile. Is one side of his/her face drooping down?

A is for Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Can they?

S stands for Speech. Ask the person to say his/her name. Is the speech slurred or confusing?

And T is for Time. Time is critical. Stroke is an emergency.

It’s also critical to note the time of “Last Known Normal,” which is the time symptoms began. That is a major factor in determining treatment protocol.

Every second counts in minimizing the damage caused to the brain. During a stroke, an estimated 30,000 brain cells die every second meaning time lost is brain lost.

Here’s some great news for Ute Pass residents. PPRH now offers the latest in stroke technology to quickly and effectively treat stroke patients.

Our local hospital is linked robotically with Swedish Medical Center, the leading stroke treatment hospital in Denver. Swedish is Colorado’s first Comprehensive Stroke Center certified by the Joint Commission, a national medical accreditation commission.

According to Rodney Bice, PPRH Chief Nursing Officer, the hospital now has immediate access to experienced stroke neurologists from Swedish in the local ER using telemedicine technology and advanced robotics. With portable two-way audio/video equipment, Internet-enabled computers and remote access to medical devices, including electronic stethoscopes, otoscopes and monitors, neurologists specializing in stroke from Swedish can instantly appear on screen at a stroke victim’s bedside at PPRH.

A hypothetical scenario would unfold like this: You recognize the symptoms of a stroke and call 911.

The ambulance arrives and the EMT’s suspect the same. They call PPRH and alert the ER that they are transporting a possible stroke victim.

The ER doctor fires up the portable robotic device, which stands about 5 feet tall on wheels and is comprised of a video screen, camera, microphone and telephone. The ER doc picks up the phone and calls Swedish Hospital.

By the time the ambulance arrives at the hospital, the neurologist at Swedish is on the screen waiting to communicate with you, family members and hospital staff in a video conferencing format.

The specialist quickly evaluates stroke symptoms interacting with the patient and family members. They can rapidly access monitoring devices and vital signs that allow them to collaborate with onsite ER physicians.

With all this critical data, the neurologist can then format a treatment plan, which could include a helicopter ride to Swedish, treatment on site at PPRH or no treatment at all.

“With a stroke, you want to come to the closest hospital,” says Bice. “Ask the ambulance driver to take you to the closest facility.”

Remember, time lost is brain lost.

Cord Prettyman is a certified Master Personal Trainer and owner of Absolute Workout Fitness and Post-Re-hab Studio in Woodland Park. He can be reached at 687-7437 or by email at