Miracle Man: Girl Scout Cookies and Quick Thinking Saved His Life

Stroke1-FBJerry Wren, 35, thought he was experiencing vertigo as he answered the door for a prearranged Girl Scout cookie money drop-off. He had agreed to be the go-between for his wife, Rhean, a Girl Scout cookie mom, and another mother from their daughter’s troop. He was right: he was suffering from vertigo, but the dizziness was just one of a number of symptoms of basilar artery thrombosis — the type of stroke that he was having.

“I remember going to answer the door and not being able to walk that well,” Jerry said. “Like my balance was all gone. I thought it was vertigo.”

The woman called Rhean immediately and reported other symptoms.

“She said Jerry was unbalanced, throwing up and slurring a little bit,” Rhean said. “I thought, ok, his speech is slurred … that sounds like a stroke. But he can’t be having a stroke because he’s only 35. When I heard him trying to talk, you couldn’t understand anything he was saying. So I called 911.”

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds. It’s about as common as a heart attack, the No. 1 killer of men and women. And while time is a crucial factor — just as with a heart attack — stroke is largely treatable. However, most people don’t recover from a basilar artery thrombosis.

“When Mr. Wren got to the emergency room, he was unresponsive, unable to breathe on his own and wasn’t moving his arms and legs properly,” said Alexander Venizelos, MD, an interventional neurologist at Medical City Forth Worth, a Comprehensive Stroke Center. “He had a blood clot in his basilar artery, which is one of the most important arteries that goes to the brain. Over 85 percent of people who have a basilar thrombosis die.”


“EMS told me they were taking Jerry to Medical City Fort Worth because it’s a stroke hospital,” said Rhean. “It’s what they do.”

A number of factors, including the accessibility of a nearby stroke center, quick thinking on the part of the woman dropping off the cookie money and Rhean’s knowledge of stroke symptoms, likely saved Jerry’s life.

“Anytime there’s damage to the brain, those cells are being lost very quickly,” Dr. Venizelos said. “The faster we’re able to recognize the symptoms and do the appropriate imaging, the better the outcome. We were able to take pictures of the blood vessels going to the brain in real time and deploy small suction devices to remove the clot.”

Think FAST for symptoms of stroke.


Rhean encourages everyone — even younger people — to learn the signs of stroke and don’t discount them because of someone’s age.

Remember the acronym FAST and look for these stroke signs:

  • FACE: facial drooping, especially on one side
  • ARMS: trouble raising arms, also perhaps confined to one side
  • SPEECH: difficulty speaking or slurring words
  • TIME: time equals brain, so act quickly and call 911 or head to the closest ER

Even children can learn the signs of stroke so they can be prepared for what to do in an emergency. Watch as the Medical City Children’s Hospital Puppeteers teach kids how to be stroke heroes.

The AHA says that most strokes are preventable. While some risk factors are not controllable, such as age, gender and ethnicity, many are within your power to change.

The National Stroke Foundation has identified these controllable risk factors for stroke:


  • High blood pressure is the No. 1 cause of stroke and raises your risk by 150%
  • AFib is a leading risk factor for stroke and is often asymptomatic, so be sure you’re in touch with your heart health
  • Other medical factors include high cholesterol, diabetes, circulation problems and carotid artery disease
  • Lifestyle factors, including:
    • Eating healthy
    • Exercising regularly
    • Quitting smoking and tobacco use
    • Limiting alcohol to one drink a day for women and two for men

Miracle Man

Jerry has a nickname around Medical City Fort Worth and it’s one that he and Rhean are pretty happy about.


“When he was in the ICU, people from the ER were coming up and saying, ‘we wanted to see the miracle man.’ Nurses were coming in and saying, ‘we had to see the miracle man.’ I told Jerry that he’s probably the only person who can say Girl Scout cookies saved his life!”

If someone is showing signs of a stroke, dial 911 or go to the nearest ER.

For minor emergencies or major mishaps, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City ER near you.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter

How to Prevent Your Own Heart Attack

senior-couple-heart-fbHere’s some news to make your heart sing: Cardiovascular diseases are completely preventable for at least 95% of people just by changing diet and lifestyle, according to a study published in the medical journal, the Lancet. And not only preventable, but usually reversible simply by applying these changes.

This is exciting, because it means that your heart health is in your own hands! Everything you eat, drink and do (or don’t do) is either contributing to heart disease or heart health.


Here’s what the Lancet study says are 4 of the top 9 risk factors for heart disease and how you can manage them so that you don’t end up in the ER — or worse.

  1. Smoking

David Engleman, MD, an interventional cardiologist at Medical City Las Colinas, says smoking is not just a major risk factor for lung cancer, but is also a major risk factor for heart attacks and strokes. The problem, Dr. Engleman says, is that smoking causes a number of things that increase your risk for these debilitating and largely preventable diseases.

Smoking causes:

  • An increase in the development of plaque within the arteries of the heart
  • Plaque to become inflamed, fragile and more likely to rupture and break off into the bloodstream
  • Blood to become sticky, increasing the risk of clots developing on the plaque as it moves through arteries, causing heart attacks

“The good news about smoking,” said Dr. Engleman, “is that if you stop, a number of those things can improve very quickly. Within several weeks of quitting, your blood starts to thin out and the plaques start to stabilize. Very quickly, we see a decrease in the incidence of stroke and heart attacks.”

  1. Abdominal obesity
  2. Daily consumption of fruits and vegetables

Being overweight or obese is a significant risk factor for many conditions, including heart disease. Not eating enough fruits and veggies is a risk factor, too, because they contain antioxidants and nutrients most people don’t get enough of. But a healthy diet can help you overcome both of these risk factors.

Adopt a healthy eating plan to help you get to and maintain a healthy weight (ask your doctor what that is for you) and provide your body with powerful nutrition.hearts-of-texas-healthy-heart-graphic_web

  • 4 to 5 servings EACH of fruits and vegetables daily
  • 6 to 8 servings of whole grains daily
  • At least 2 servings of fish high in omega-3s weekly
  • Nuts
  • Legumes (peas, beans, lentils, soybeans, peanuts)
  • Seeds
  • Low-fat dairy
  • Little to no added sugar
  • Little to no red meat (lean cuts if you must eat)
  1. Regular physical activity

Here’s another two-fer: regular exercise will not only strengthen your heart, which is a muscle, but like eating healthfully, it can also help you maintain a healthy weight. Try for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of both every week. Be sure to include muscle-strengthening activities two or more days a week. Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

(The other 5 risk factors mentioned in the Lancet article are: abnormal lipids, hypertension, diabetes, alcohol consumption and psychosocial factors.) 

Should you have a heart screening?

If you experience any of the symptoms of a heart attack, you should call 911 or seek immediate medical treatment. Kara Bader, RN, a cardiovascular nurse practitioner at Medical City Arlington, explains what to look for.

According to Michael Isaac MD, an interventional cardiologist and Medical City Dallas’ medical director for cardiovascular quality, if you have no symptoms but two or more risk factors, you should follow up with your doctor. These risk factors include:

  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol
  • Smoking
  • Excess weight
  • Early family history
    • Male family member 40-50 with heart disease
    • Female family member 50-60 with heart disease

Do you know how healthy your heart is? Our free Heart Risk Assessment can help you pinpoint your personal risk factors for heart disease so you can start taking steps to decrease them today.

If you or someone in your family experiences chest pain, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations or Accredited Chest Pain Centers has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter

How to Keep Holiday Stress from Harming Your Heart

Family sleeping on sofa at ChristmasEmergency room doctors have coined the term “Christmas coronary” to describe the more than 30 percent increase in heart attacks and heart-related problems that occur during the winter months — especially on Christmas, the day after Christmas and on New Year’s Day.

To find out who is at risk for holiday heart attacks (hint: age and gender don’t factor in), why they happen more frequently and tips to prevent them, we recommend Beware of Binging and Other Tips to Prevent Holiday Heart Attacks.

Holiday Heart
Christmas coronary sounds as bad as it is, but “holiday heart” — another doctor-named seasonal trend — seems as if it could be a Christmas movie (it is) or a description of what happened to the Grinch’s ticker when he gave the presents back.

Unfortunately, it’s not as jolly as it sounds. Dale Yoo, MD, a cardiac electrophysiologist at Medical City McKinney, says that if you leave the symptoms of holiday heart untreated and let it go on too long, it can lead to more serious conditions, including atrial fibrillation (AFIB), stroke and diabetes.

As the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S., heart disease should get used to being nicknamed. But you shouldn’t have to suffer with it, no matter which name it goes by.

So we asked Dr. Yoo to explain holiday heart and give his best advice for avoiding it this winter.

“Holiday heart can affect anyone of any age who is under stress. And today, that includes young people as well,” said Dr. Yoo. “If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, you should make an appointment with your doctor for a checkup.”

 Symptoms of holiday heart can include:

Stress causes holiday heart.

“What do we typically do during the holidays?” said Dr. Yoo. “Our routine is disrupted and we compress a lot of activities into a very short period of time, such as hosting friends and family members, shopping, going to parties, cooking, cleaning and decorating, all of which can put additional stress on our hearts.”

Stress causes a release of hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which constrict blood vessels, increase heart rate and raise blood pressure. Over time, chronic stress can enable these conditions to become permanent.

Holiday heart stressors include:

  • Eating rich foods loaded with fat and sugar
  • Eating more food than normal
  • Drinking more alcoholic beverages and less water
  • Drinking more caffeinated beverages and less water
  • Staying up late and not getting enough rest
  • Exercising less than normal (who has time?)
  • Stressing over all of it

Dr. Yoo’s top 3 tips to prevent holiday heart (and other heart problems).

  1. Make sure you get enough sleep based on your age:
  • 12-14 years old / 9-11 hours
  • 15-17 years old / 8-10 hours
  • 18-64 years old / 7-9 hours
  • 65 years old and up / 7-8 hours
  1. Drink lots of water: Drinking 40 ounces of water daily can cut the risk of dying from a heart attack by 41 percent for women and 54 percent for men, versus those who drank less than 16 ounces. But more is better!
  1. Decrease (or eliminate) additional sources of adrenaline (caffeine), including:
  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Herbal supplements
  • Energy drinks, such as 5-hour ENERGY® and Red Bull®

Additional ways to keep your heart from doing the holiday Hokey Pokey:

  • Stay well nourished: Maintain a healthy diet and indulge in just a few seasonal treats.
  • Move as much as you can: If you can’t get to the gym, take the stairs at work or find a place to walk at lunch.
  • Be happy! For a list of 10 holiday stress-busters from Radhika Vayani, DO, an internal medicine physician at Medical City Alliance, watch the video below:

Find out your risks for heart disease and start taking steps to decrease them today with our free Heart Risk Assessment.

We wish you and your family a very safe and happy holiday season, but if your heart skips a beat, one of our many Medical City Healthcare emergency locations has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.

Visit FastERTX.com to find a fast Medical City Healthcare ER near you.

Sign Up for the LifeSigns E-Newsletter

Young Stroke Survivor Tells Her Story

What was to be a relaxing day off from school and waiting tables turned into a fight for life for Cassie Scantlin.


On January 4, the 21-year-old senior at the University of North Texas awakened with what she thought was a case of the flu. So she headed to bed with a glass of orange juice to wait out the misery.

That’s when it hit.

“My entire body felt electric and tingly, like someone else was controlling my body,” Scantlin recalls. “My head felt like it was almost like a balloon on top of my body. My head hurt so bad it felt like my eyes were swelling from the pressure.”

As she reached for the tableside OJ, Scantlin realized she couldn’t move her right side.
“Why can’t I move my hands?” she remembers wondering. “Why can’t I move my feet?”
She tried to calm herself by singing “Amazing Grace,” but found she couldn’t remember the words. Nor could she read.

Healthy and strong, Scantlin says it never crossed her mind that what she was experiencing could be a medical emergency. Instead of calling 911, she called her grandparents, who lived half an hour away.

“I used chairs, walls. It took me 30 minutes to make it to the front door of my apartment,” Scantlin says. “I thought I was going to collapse and die right there.”

Highly Specialized Stroke Network

stroke-cassie-brainIn the emergency room at Medical City Denton, doctors determined that this otherwise healthy college student was having a stroke. She was immediately given TPA, tissue plasminogen activator, a medication that can break down blood clots in the brain.

Not every hospital has the ability to administer lifesaving TPA medication, but as a Primary Stroke Center, Medical City Denton was able to stabilize Scantlin. She was quickly airlifted to Medical City Plano, a sister facility and a Level 1 Comprehensive Stroke Center. Both Medical City Denton and Medical City Plano are part of the Texas Stroke Institute (TSI), a comprehensive and highly specialized brain attack network of care and part of the Medical City Healthcare hospital system.

Time is Brain

Patients having stroke symptoms need to get to the right facility quickly, where they can receive care that may not only save their life, but preserve their brain and physical function. Hospitals that are part of the Texas Stroke Institute regional stroke network have the infrastructure, training and ability to provide the right lifesaving therapy, in the right place, at the right time for patients.


Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States. While the risk increases after age 55, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports an alarming rise in the number of young adults suffering an ischemic stroke, the most common type, in which the blood supply to part of the brain is cut off due to a blockage. Each year, women have more strokes than men. Pregnancy, smoking and birth control pills pose stroke risks for women, according to the American Stroke Association.

Doctors at The Medical City Plano discovered something else: a hole in Scantlin’s heart called a PFO, or patent foramen ovale. Undiagnosed PFOs are often the underlying cause for stroke in young people. She underwent surgery March 16 to close that hole.

In a regional stroke network like TSI, there is a broad range of leading-edge therapy options for patients, including clot-dissolving drugs, retrievable stents and vacuum suction devices that can remove blood clots in the brain. We also work closely with a team of specialists from across the hospital system to ensure patients get the highest level of care after having a brain attack.

Road to Recovery

Three months after the stroke, Scantlin is still recovering. Her right side is numb and she has little sensation of hot and cold.

“It takes me three times to read anything,” admits Scantlin, “so the comprehension part has been difficult. But it’s getting better and my professors have been amazing.”

She wants others to know you’re never too young to suffer a stroke. She also admits she is lucky, considering she didn’t call for an ambulance and instead waited to be driven to the hospital.

Her final words echo a campaign championed by the American Heart Association.

“Don’t be scared to dial 911,” she says. “Don’t die of doubt.”

Medical City Healthcare has 17 emergency locations with average wait times posted online to help you get the care you need fast. Find a fast Medical City ER near you.