Green Door Photography
As a healthy 30-year-old and mom of two young kids, Jamie Huse never saw stroke as a threat she would have to face. To her, strokes happened to older individuals or those with multiple risks factors. But on a cold winter day she learned strokes can happen to anyone at any time.
The day started out as typical day in the Huse household. Jamie worked a full day the outreach center where she is a child advocate. After work, she picked up her 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter from her mom's and headed home to make dinner with her husband.
"It was a normal family dinner. After we finished, the kids were having fun playing and being rambunctious," Jamie said.
Later Jamie, Nic and the kids went to the cell phone store and picked out new phones.
"Since it was past the kids' bedtime, Nic and I got in the car and started putting together our parent-tag-team plan of attack," Jamie said.
Jamie and Nic were in Caleb's room putting pajamas on the kids. Nic noticed Caleb needed his toenail clipped and asked Jamie to help. Jamie clipped her son's toenail and then fell completely backward.
"I thought 'that was strange' and started laughing," she said.
Nic and Caleb thought Jamie was just being silly and joking around. Then Jamie's arm started feeling strange. She described the feeling as a thousand ants were crawling on it.
Knowing something was wrong, Nic kept saying: "What's going on? Are you OK? You are acting really strange, and it's starting to scare me."
Jamie tried to tell Nic she thought she was just dehydrated, not realizing her speech was slurred. "It just felt like my tongue was hanging out and really swollen, but it wasn't," Jamie said.
Nic was adamant he needed to call 911, but Jamie continued to laugh it off. A disagreement that lasted seconds, yet felt like ages to the two of them, ended with a compromise that Nic would get Jamie a glass of water and if she didn't feel better after drinking it, he was going to call for an ambulance.
Jamie couldn't sit up or drink. Her eyes were locked to the right, staring at the wall. She didn't realize her entire left side was paralyzed. She was showing signs of a stroke: droopy smile, numb arm, and slurred speech.
Nic told Jamie, "Something is really wrong," and called 911.
"I remember being upset with Nic for calling 911 because I didn't want to scare the kids and I was embarrassed of what the neighbors would think when an ambulance showed up to our house," Jamie said.
Nic also called family. He knew Jamie's parents would want to be with her, and he needed his parents to watch the kids when they went to the hospital.
"I could barely make out what Nic was saying. I knew something was really wrong," said Jamie's mom, Sheila.
'Stay with us'
Jamie's parents got in the car and raced to meet them at their house. Jamie continued to laugh and rub her arm, despite Nic saying, "You're really starting to freak me out."
Jamie's parents arrived at their house minutes after Nic called.
"She looked like a rag doll lying on the floor. Her face was extremely distorted and her arms were in the strangest positions. It was the eeriest feeling," said Sheila.
"My dad thought I was dying. He kept saying, 'Stay with us, Jamie.' And I kept thinking, 'Where would I go?'"
Gravity setting in
The medics arrived and asked lots of questions: What is your name? What is today's date? Where are you? Jamie answered all the questions correctly.
In the ambulance, the EMTs asked Jamie to move her arms. Without any difficulty, Jamie moved her right arm but realized she didn't know where her left arm was.
"It is such a bizarre feeling," she said. "It was at that second, I thought maybe I really am having a stroke. How does one lose an arm that's still attached to your body?"
As Jamie was wheeled into the UnityPoint Health emergency room, she remembers hearing the words "left side paralysis," and thinking, "Oh, that does not sound good."
Jamie never lost consciousness but felt like she was in her own little world. She described it as a fuzzy, dream-like state where everything was in slow motion. She joked with the nurses and doctors as they cared for her.
Time for stroke drug
Her neurologist, Dr. Babak Rezaei, told Jamie and Nic that he believed she had a stroke and she needed a CAT scan right away to determine what he could do. The results came back and showed no blood on the brain, and it had only been 2 hours since she first started showing signs of a stroke. This meant a medication called tPA could be given to break the blood clot that caused the stroke.
"Dr. Rezaei was very informative and shared all the risks with me," Jamie continued, "I was thinking I wanted it but knew I clearly was not in my right mind, so I left the decision up to Nic."
After weighing the risks, Nic told Jamie he thought she should get tPA. Shortly after receiving it, Jamie started speaking normally and felt more alert.
In good hands
Jamie was taken to the ICU to recover around 1 a.m. The reality of what happened soon sunk in as family members came to visit.
"Their looks and cries said it all," Jamie said. "It was horrifying. I tried to joke with them but remember my grandma saying, 'How can you even joke in a time like this?'"
Throughout the night, Jamie's care team kept a close eye on her, performing tests to make sure she didn't experience any complications.
"I always felt like I was in good hands," Jamie said.
Relearning everyday tasks
Jamie slowly got some movement back on her left side but was going to need rehabilitation.
"I started crying because I didn't want to be away from my kids, especially so close to Christmas," Jamie said.
"I couldn't do day-to-day stuff to take care of myself or my family. I knew I needed to go to rehabilitation so I could get better."
Jamie went to classes to learn how to walk with a natural gait, cook and multi-task.
"Everyday stuff you take for granted, you have to learn how to do again," Jamie said. "I couldn't do silly things like putting a ponytail in." she said.
Jamie was in therapy for three full days. She continues to relearn how to multi-task and walk without a cane.
'I got this'
Jamie tries to remain positive.
"I have occasionally thought 'why me?' but I stop myself since it's a waste of time thinking about it," Jamie said.
Her family created a "village schedule" to figure out transportation, babysitting, cooking and laundry as Jamie continues to recover and go to therapy.
As a wife and mother of two kids, Jamie sometimes gets frustrated dealing with the side effects of the stroke, yet she maintains, "I got this."
Motivated by setting goals and inspiring others, Jamie has never given up hope of a full recovery.
Jamie counts her blessings she was able to get to the emergency room quickly – and in time to have the tPA.
Words of advice
"It's hard not to, but don't take life for granted," Jamie said. "Take care of yourself. It can especially be hard for us moms, but remember you have to take care of yourself to take care of your kids."
ABOVE: Jamie Huse talks with Dr. Babak Rezaei.
TOP: Jamie and her husband, Nic, and children, Caleb and Kinsley.