Palmetto Health recognizes National Stroke Awareness Month with stories of patients who experienced a terrifying time in their lives, but found the care they needed and the strength within themselves to pull through and recover. This is the third of four stories we will be highlighting during the month of May.
On January 13, 2018, 57 year-old Hans Hammond had just enjoyed lunch at a restaurant and was driving back to his home in Camden when suddenly he lost control of his arms and legs.
“It was like a light switch,” said Hans, “everything shut down!”
Luckily he was able to pull over to a parking lot and somehow was able to stop the vehicle. Several people came to Hans’s aid, including one man who recognized what was happening and declared, “Somebody call EMS, this man is having a stroke.”
Hans remembers thinking that he couldn’t possibly be having a stroke. To him, a stroke was something to do with his heart, and he felt no pain in his heart. “I wanted to talk,” he remembers, “but I couldn’t.”
Hans was airlifted by helicopter to Palmetto Health Richland. During the flight he was able to communicate with the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) by uttering simple numbers. “I’m a truck driver, so I was able to get out numbers like 10-4. Basically I could get them to understand ‘yes’ and ‘no’”.
At Palmetto Health Richland, the stroke team gave him a special medicine (tPA) that breaks down clots in arteries to restore the flow of blood. Additionally, Hans needed surgery to remove what remained of the clot. He was in the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit (NSICU) for five days.
“I had a severe stroke, and yet I could walk after 24 hours, which the nurses say is nearly impossible. I’m actually back to driving after only two months.”
Care and recovery
He remembers the care that he received as being “angel-like. It was like angels were taking care of me.”
The impact of the stroke on Hans’s life has been tremendous. “I quit smoking after being a pack-a-day smoker for over 40 years,” he says. “I used to try to be a ‘Superman,’ and now I know I’m just human.”
In the aftermath of the stroke, Hans has been physically limited, although he remains positive. “Bluntly they told me it wasn’t going to be the way it was, but everything I do have is a blessing. I used to run at least a mile day; now I’m happy just to walk a couple of hundred feet. I know it makes no sense, but I am happy. I’m proud of the accomplishments I am now making.”
Hans describes himself as a happy single guy. “My wife died 30 years ago,” he says. “I had the best wife there is.” Now, when he isn’t driving a truck, he likes to concentrate on his hobby, which is riding around the country on his motorcycle. Recently he drove to Daytona Beach in spite of his limitations. “I had been there a couple of times before, but this time… just the experience of being able to do it and of being alive, if that makes any sense, was incredible.”
Advanced monitoring and treatment for neurocritical care patients.
The Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit (NSICU) at Palmetto Health Richland is a 16-bed state-of-the-art facility staffed by full-time neurointensivists and neuro specialty-trained nurses. Serving Columbia, Lexington, Irmo and the greater Midlands region of South Carolina, our NSICU is the only unit of its kind in the area.