LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — Ann Tillery could see by her own image on the Zoom screen that something was wrong when the left side of her face began to droop. Her speech slurred and her left arm felt heavy.
All of the signs of a stroke were there, and the technology of the video conferencing platform helped the Lincoln, Nebraska, woman realize it fast enough to get lifesaving help.
The Lincoln Journal Star reports that Tillery was on camera on a Zoom call with state lawmakers on May 18 advocating for the Alzheimer's Association when, “in just a split second, my world changed,” she said.
Problem was, no one else on the call realized what was happening. Tillery was alone in a conference room at the University of Nebraska Foundation. She grabbed her phone and tried to stand but fell to the floor.
Finally, she was able to call 911.
“I knew I had a very limited time to act if I was going to have the best chance of recovery,” Tillery said. “Luckily I did have my cellphone.”
She made it to the hospital within about 25 minutes. Quinn Willet, a hospitalist with Bryan Health, said the faster a stroke victim reaches the hospital, the better their recovery outcome is likely to be.
Tillery's stroke was caused by a blood vessel rupture in her brain, causing spontaneous bleeding. Initially, she had virtually no control of the left side of her body.
After several days in intensive care, Tillery spent 11 days in inpatient care working with occupational, physical and speech therapists. Her rehabilitation continues.
One of her initial recovery goals was to get better soon enough to attend the annual Cattlemen's Ball in Columbus. Last weekend, she made it to the event.
“She just had so much motivation to get home and get to the Cattlemen’s Ball,” said her speech language pathologist, Alyssa Cook.
Tillery hopes her story raises awareness about common stroke symptoms, summed up in the acronym FAST: Facial drooping, arm drooping or uneven arm strength, slurred speech and time (get medical help as quickly as possible).
She also hopes that people will look out for others in the digital space, just as they would in a face-to-face setting.
“Let’s keep an eye out for one another,” she said.