Minnesota farmer calls attention to stroke month

May 5, 2018
Bruce Schmoll is back at work on his family's farm near Claremont, Minn., after suffering a stroke in March. (Andrew Link/The Rochester Post-Bulletin via AP)

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — On a Thursday morning, March 22, around 6:20, Bruce Schmoll was up early for an ice fishing trip to Winona.

Bruce, 64, is a farmer based a little south of Claremont. Tarrie Schmoll, his wife, was getting ready for work just a little ways away.

Bruce Schmoll, who is left-handed, picked up his electric shaver.

“It fell out of my hand and I noticed my hand wasn’t working,” he said.

The razor fell, and Schmoll leaned over to get it, falling onto the floor after it.

Tarrie, a patient facilitator for Mayo Clinic, saw him slide to the floor and checked on him.

Right away, she noticed the obvious signs of a stroke — his face “drooped” on one side, his speech was slurred, and his left hand and arm weren’t working properly.

“Luckily — or maybe it was unlucky, I don’t know — Bruce had every symptom you read about,” Tarrie said. “You always wonder, ‘Will I know?’ But these signs weren’t subtle.”

She called 911 right away.

Schmoll was determined to get up, he said. He moved into the bedroom and wanted to go down the stairs to meet the ambulance.

“She insisted that I stay up there,” he said.

Around 20 minutes later, Schmoll was racing to the hospital in an ambulance. Tarrie followed in her car once she’d gotten her shoes on.

She arrived at the hospital as Schmoll was being taken for a CT scan, which confirmed that he had a blood clot blocking a vessel in his brain.

Tarrie gave permission for the doctors to treat him.

“I said, ‘Yes, do everything,’” she said.

The doctors administered a clot-buster medicine via an IV in Schmoll’s hand, then told him they would have to do a thrombectomy, or mechanical clot retrieval.

Schmoll had a blockage stroke, caused by the abrupt blockage of the artery.

Clot-buster medication is the usual treatment for an acute stroke, or one that’s detected and treated within a few hours, said Eugene Scharf, a neurologist at Mayo Clinic who helped treat Bruce.

“They explained that they were going to put a catheter in my groin area and thread that all the way up to the side of my head,” Bruce said.

The catheter was attached to a device that trapped the clot and removed it.

Within about three hours, from phone call to procedure, the clot was gone.

The quick treatment is ideal when treating stroke patients, Scharf said.

“It’s the way you hope things will go,” he said.

Tarrie stayed in the family waiting room during the procedure, then met Bruce in the ICU.

“I could see him, and he was able to talk to me,” she said. “He had a little more healing to go, but I could see that things were going to be positive for us.”

The couple was lucky to live so close to Mayo Clinic, they said, and that Schmoll could be treated quickly.

The Post-Bulletin reports that May is American Stroke Month, and Schmoll is speaking out about his experience.

Schmoll spent about three days in Saint Mary’s hospital.

He recovered so well, Tarrie said, that he was dismissed early with only outpatient testing to complete.

The only casualty from the trip, Schmoll said, was a “kind of expensive” long-sleeved, insulated shirt he’d worn in preparation for the trip, which was cut off him.

Schmoll has no family history of strokes, and does not have an irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, diabetes, or a smoking habit. In fact, he’s active in the Rochester Senior softball program, and takes regular wilderness canoe trips.

Just a few days prior, he’d been to a check-up with his cardiologist, with whom he meets once a year after having a heart attack 11 years ago.

There had been no signs that a stroke was imminent.

He advised people — especially those at risk — to know the signs of a stroke and call for help as soon as possible if they experienced them.

“It’s my understanding that the sooner you get medical attention, the better off you are,” Schmoll said.

That’s true, Scharf said — when a blood vessel is blocked, a stroke patient can lose two million neurons a minute.

“I’m usually pretty health-conscious, I take good care of myself, so it’s frustrating for this to happen,” Schmoll said.

But after several weeks of monitoring his heart rate, the farmer was ready to put the incident behind him and take advantage of the warmer weather.

“I’m just anxious to get back to work,” he said.


Information from: Post-Bulletin, http://www.postbulletin.com

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