911 asked what the emergency was and he said 'Stroke'
Navy veteran stranded on rural road managed to make life-saving call for help while essentially paralyzed
Deborah Circelli Published: 6/2/2017
Ronald Rentz was driving to his primary care doctor for routine blood work, when he pulled off the side of the road after his eyes became blurry and he started perspiring heavily.
“It was like somebody dumped a bucket of water on me,” said Rentz, who was traveling on a rural road near his home in Glen St. Mary, Ga. “Then my lips started tingling and I couldn’t move my left hand on the steering wheel. I was completely paralyzed on the left side.”
Rentz, 66, was afraid he would die right there. Then he remembered the signs of stroke and reacted quickly. With his right hand, he picked up his cell phone from a cup holder in his truck and dialed 911. When the 911 operator asked him what his emergency was, Rentz managed to get one word out – stroke.
“I remember saying a prayer in the truck while waiting for the rescue unit,” recalled Rentz, who is married with two grown children. When paramedics arrived, Rentz was barely able to pronounce the name of the school where his wife works.
Paramedics on the scene recognized that Rentz had suffered a severe stroke and drove him to a nearby helicopter pad. In a matter of minutes, Baptist LifeFlight touched down at Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, home of the Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center, one of only two hospitals in the region certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
A CT scan verified that Rentz was having a major ischemic stroke (lack of blood flow to the brain due to a blood clot), and was immediately administered the clot-busting medication known as tPA, along with advanced vascular imaging in preparation for the next step in treatment.
Neurovascular surgeon Ricardo Hanel, MD, PhD, director of the Baptist Neurological Institute, said both of Rentz’s arms and legs were essentially paralyzed when he arrived. Dr. Hanel used the latest minimally invasive techniques and technologies to navigate through the blood vessels in Rentz’s groin up to his brain to remove the clot and restore blood flow to his brain.
Rentz, a former smoker who has high blood pressure, high cholesterol and is diabetic, was at a high risk for stroke, and the statistics were against him. Stroke is one of the highest causes of long-term, serious disability in the nation.
“Dr. Hanel was telling me what a miracle I was that I had enough function to call 911. The Lord put my phone where I could get to it and the rescue unit and helicopter did their job so well,” said Rentz, a U.S. Navy veteran who is retired from a container manufacturing plant.
“I think it’s amazing they could pull a clot out of my head without major surgery. When I woke up, I didn’t feel like anything happened.”