Slurred speech, facial drooping and arm weakness – all are classic signs of a stroke, and all were symptoms Darren Smith, 52, experienced the night of Friday, April 6, 2018. After the quick actions of his wife LeAnn, he was immediately taken by ambulance to MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center, which is a Comprehensive Stroke Center offering the highest level of advanced stroke care. Long Beach Medical Center is one of a few Comprehensive Stroke Centers in LA County and the only one in Long Beach.

With a stroke, time is of the essence, so when a patient is brought to Long Beach Medical Center, a multi-disciplinary team awaits their arrival in the Emergency Department ready to spring into action. And for Darren that team included Emergency Department nurse Tassia Trink, RN, and stroke nurse, Savannah Dominguez, RN.

“I remember almost every second from the minute my stroke happened all the way through to my procedure,” says Smith. “But what I remember most was Tassia never leaving my side. She knew I understood what was happening, but continued talking to me knowing I couldn’t speak or move. It little things like that, that you never forget.”

Trink and Dominguez stayed with Darren throughout that critical time until he underwent a thrombectomy, an interventional procedure to remove a blood clot from the blood vessel supplying blood to his brain.

Patients have to be monitored closely if they receive a treatment intervention, so after his procedure, he was taken to the Neuro Intensive Care Unit for recovery, where Dominguez was able to continually check his progress.

Long Beach Medical Center has a unique stroke nurse role held by one specially trained intensive care unit nurse per shift, who responds to all stroke patients, whether they are already in the hospital or coming to the Emergency Department by ambulance.

“As I was trying to get my speech back, I was talking and weird things were coming out,” says Smith. “I had to think really hard about what I was trying to say, but Savannah was patient and stayed with me through the night and into the morning, even though it was past her normal shift. I could never forget her.”

Strokes can often cause long-term complications, but on Sunday, April, 29, 2018, just three weeks after his stroke, he returned to work. Knowing his outcome could have been very different without the stroke team at Long Beach Medical Center, Darren recently wanted to find a way to show his appreciation.

On Thursday, Dec. 6, exactly eight months after his stroke, Darren reunited with Trink, Dominguez and his entire stroke team, who not only saved his life, but offered his family compassion and kindness during this traumatic incident.

“As an Emergency Department nurse, it’s very rare to find out what happens to our patients after they leave the hospital,” says Trink. “So for Darren to reach out to us and to have that closure, it’s a great reminder of why we do what we do.”