U Doctors Help Patient Survive Stroke and Regain Independence
It was a sequence of events that saved his life: an accidental honk of the horn, his daughter’s instinctive response, and a doctor’s compassionate care that helped Salt Lake City Councilman Randy Horiuchi bounce back from a stroke.
In January 2012, Horiuchi was in his car getting ready to drive to an appointment when his foot fell asleep on the gas pedal. In an effort to remove his foot from the pedal he accidentally hit the car’s horn. The loud and unexpected honk prompted his daughter to come outside and stop him from driving away. When she saw him she was worried he’d had a heart attack. “I told her I was fine, that I didn’t have a heart attack,” Horiuchi says. Fortunately, his daughter followed her instincts and called 911.
Believing he hadn’t suffered a heart attack, Horiuchi attempted to piece together his symptoms on the ambulance ride to University Hospital. “The thing about a stroke is you don’t know you’re having one,” he says. “I didn’t have a headache or pain at all.”
Once he arrived at the emergency room at the U, doctors quickly diagnosed a stroke and administered an anti-clogging medicine that allowed blood to flow through his vessels. “It probably should have been a lot worse,” says Horiuchi.
Strokes can occur on either the left or the right side of the brain and as a result can affect people differently. The U doctors discovered Horiuchi had suffered a stroke in the right side of his brain, the part that is responsible for cognitive behavior including communication, movement, vision, and touch.
Horiuchi was in the intensive care unit for six days while doctors monitored his brain for swelling. His stay at the U lasted for nearly a month, but it was care from a doctor who fully understood Horiuchi that made his experience at the U exceptional. “It was like having Babe Ruth as your doctor,” said Horiuchi. “He knew what I was going through mentally, emotionally, spiritually.”
Steven Edgley, M.D., director of stroke rehabilitation, was a key player in Horiuchi’s recovery. Having suffered a stroke himself, Dr. Edgley cared for Horiuchi not only as a doctor but also as a peer. “It was incredible to have someone who lived through it himself to help me,” he said.
University care goes beyond inpatient treatment. As he continues to recover, U therapists follow Horiuchi on a weekly basis. In addition to healing, he’s learned some important life skills. “Therapy has taught me to be much more deliberate. I think that’s why I got back on my feet so quickly. I needed to be on my A game.”
Because of quick-thinking doctors and a support system that followed him from his hospital room to his ongoing care, Horiuchi has retained his independence. The ability to continue the work he loves as a councilman and businessman was crucial to him and a huge motivator for his recuperation. Along with all his accomplishments, Horiuchi now can call himself a stroke survivor. “I was very fortunate,” he says. “I’ve gone back to work and on the council full time. It’s been an incredible ride.”
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