No Stroke of Luck: Counting Blessings
As a physician for 48 years, Dr. Bobby Dale of Tupelo has treated hundreds of stroke patients. He knows the signs well, yet he was in denial when it happened to him.
On Easter 2020, Dr. Dale and his wife Martha turned off the TV and were heading to bed when she asked if he was okay. “I told her I was fine and asked why,” he says. “She told me that my speech was slurred and my face was drooped.” When he had trouble getting in bed, Martha called their neighbor, family physician Dr. Ben Kilman, to come over. Because Dr. Dale was being stubborn and insisting he was fine, Dr. Kilman called in another neighbor, surgeon Dr. Newt Harrison for reinforcement—and the two got him to the Emergency Department at North Mississippi Medical Center-Tupelo.
With stroke, time is brain. The longer treatment is delayed, the less chance it will be successful. “The Good Lord showed his hand,” Dr. Dale says. “We had stayed up late to watch a special on TV. Had we been asleep when I had the stroke, we wouldn’t have known until the next day, and it would’ve been too late to do anything.”
In the ER, where Dr. Dale had worked for two decades, Dr. Jigar Desai determined he had indeed suffered an ischemic stroke—a blood clot was blocking a major artery to his brain. His former colleague, interventional radiologist Dr. Richard Arriola, immediately performed thrombectomy, a procedure to remove the blood clot and restore blood flow to Dr. Dale’s brain. “Dr. Arriola called me and said he had worked so hard to get that clot out, but he wasn’t able to get it. He was going to keep trying,” Martha said. “About 4:30 a.m., he came out and told me he was successful.”
“I call it a miracle,” Dr. Dale says. “After about six hours, there’s not much hope to restore circulation. He worked for four or five hours on me.”
After the procedure, Dr. Dale spent several days in the Critical Care Unit under the care of neurosurgeon Dr. Jason Stacy. “My speech was terrible,” he says. “I knew what I was trying to say, but I couldn’t say it. I could not move my left side. I finally got some movement back in my left arm and foot almost a week later. I thought then, well, there might be some chance of recovery.”
A week after his stroke, Dr. Dale transferred by wheelchair to NMMC’s Rehabilitation Institute for several hours of intense physical, occupational and speech therapy daily overseen by physical medicine and rehabilitation physician Dr. Brian Condit. “On the weekend they told me I could have the day off from therapy,” he says. “I told them, ‘I’ve got to get well. I’m not taking any time off.’” So, therapists worked with him that day and every day for the next three weeks, retraining his muscles, rebuilding his strength and endurance, and perfecting his speech. “I got the best treatment there. I couldn’t have gotten any better treatment anywhere,” he says. “I walked out of there a month after my stroke.”
After two weeks of home health therapy, Dr. Dale began several months of outpatient rehabilitation. Three months later, he passed his driving evaluation at NMMC’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Center and hit the road again. “I’m 95% back,” he says. “I still have a little weakness on my left side, and I have to be deliberate with words.”
Two years later, Dr. Dale is back to hunting, fishing and working three days a week at Mantachie Rural Health Clinic. “I’ve been practicing medicine for 48 years. I’m trying to make 50,” he says, “and then I’ll decide what I want to do when I grow up.”
Despite the setback, Dr. Dale counts his blessings. “I was very fortunate,” he says. “Martha picked up on it right away, and my neighbors got me to the right care.”
Dr. Bobby Dale of Tupelo has treated hundreds of stroke patients. He knows the signs well, yet he was in denial when it happened to him.