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Premier Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center is Changing Lives

Watch Jillene's story or read the transcript.


Stroke care at Premier Health saves lives. Jillene Whatley is now a ball of energy who proves that point.

Jillene had a nagging feeling something wasn’t right for months, but she couldn’t put her finger on it. Her eyesight had deteriorated and she was experiencing numbness in her right arm and the right side of her face. She had attributed the change in her condition to age and other factors. It wasn’t until an episode, during which she temporarily lost total sight in the right eye, that she began aggressively searching for the cause.

“Something told me to look up the symptoms of a stroke,” said Jillene. “I searched and found the 10 signs of a stroke, and I had six of them.”

Jillene, who lives in Kettering, immediately went to the emergency room at Miami Valley Hospital South with her daughter. “I think I’m having a stroke or I’ve had a stroke,” she told the receptionist. Suddenly, she recalls, emergency room staff surrounded her. 

Jillene learned that she had experienced five minor strokes, or ministrokes

Bryan Ludwig, MD, chair of the Clinical Neuroscience Institute at Miami Valley Hospital , called Jillene’s ministrokes a TIA – transient ischemic attack. “That means that the blood to the brain didn't get there and then returned, meaning (the blood flow) temporarily was halted and then it returned quickly enough that there was no permanent injury.” 

“They (TIAs) should be taken very seriously because it's a warning sign for a larger, more permanent stroke that may happen, indeed sometimes very close to those clinical symptoms that they had,” Dr. Ludwig explains. “In Ms. Whatley's case, we were fortunate because her symptoms of right eye vision and some of the numbness that she was experiencing helped us determine that the particular artery that was narrowed was the culprit.”

Further testing showed that Jillene had blockage in both carotid arteries, the left side being worse. 

Jillene’s proactive response to her symptoms worked in her favor, Dr. Ludwig said. “Stroke symptoms can vary and because of that, it's important to recognize the clinical signs and to have your family members recognize clinical signs.”

One way to remember what to look for is to think and act FAST.

  • F – Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • A – Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S – Speech: Ask the person to say something. Is the speech slurred or garbled?
  • T – Time: If you notice any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 immediately. Time is critical.

Premier Health’s stroke services are provided at all Premier Health hospitals. Jillene was first seen at Miami Valley Hospital South. After evaluation by Elizabeth Marriott, MD, using the telestroke program, she was referred for further testing.

“The stroke team evaluated her and identified that her vision loss in the right eye was a warning sign for a potential problem with the artery in the neck,” Dr. Ludwig said. “Thankfully, she was okay at this stage and not having any further outward symptoms, which allowed us to transfer her to the main hospital.”

At Miami Valley Hospital, following an examination of her arteries, Jillene had two surgeries. Physicians placed stents in both arteries using a minimally invasive procedure with a surgical robot. Thanks to the surgeries, Jillene’s vision has improved and her energy level has increased.

“I went to recovery and then home the next day,” Whatley said. “They just can’t get over how well the procedure went, and I can’t either.”

Jillene says she feels better than she has in years. She continues to travel, something that she had once feared doing after her eyesight diminished. She also continues to work. She says she has more energy and family members talk about how she looks healthier than ever before.

“God has given me a reason to go,” Jillene said. “Until I find that reason, it’s important for me to stop worrying about dying and start living again. I’ve got a lot to live for and I’ve got some beautiful grandbabies to see.”

The stroke care program at Premier Health has won awards and earned clinical accreditation. Dr. Ludwig explained, “Within the Premier system, Miami Valley Hospital is a comprehensive stroke center, which is important because it puts us into a category (of hospitals) that have been evaluated by the Joint Commission. The Joint Commission uses very specific guidelines and standards in which to grade us and to ensure that we have the quality that you would want and expect out of a top 100 center.

“Centers that participate in the same process are Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, Mass General, Stanford. All the big names that you would expect with medical quality and care participate just like we do in this process and grade themselves against us and us against them and we find that our standards are just as high as theirs, which we're very proud of.

“We like to make sure that folks in Dayton know that,” Ludwig said. “That this is the one and only one place you can get that type of care.

Content Updated: February 16, 2018

These Miami Valley Hospital locations offer Neurosciences Services.
Neurosciences at Miami Valley Hospital
One Wyoming St. Dayton, OH  45409
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Visit the Miami Valley Hospital Directory.

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