Stroke patient, 19, credits family’s quick response and Piedmont Walton staff for excellent outcome

Press release from Piedmont Walton

Hunter Clark (right), his brother (left) and sister Kristen (middle). Their quick actions made sure Clark received care for his stroke in a timely manner, leading to full recovery. Contributed photo

Monroe, Ga. (May 22, 2024) — Hunter Clark, 19, was on the phone with his mother, trying to read something off of his computer, when suddenly his words wouldn’t come out right. While he could still understand what he was reading, when he tried to speak, nothing he said was coherent.

His family quickly jumped into action. His brother was home, so his mom, who was 300 miles away, called him and asked him to go check on his brother; she thought he might be having a stroke, and even though that seemed unbelievable, she couldn’t think of what else it could be. His mom then contacted his sister, Kristen Clark, who is a nurse in the emergency department at Piedmont Walton Hospital. Kristen was on her way home from vacation, but she immediately told her brothers to go to Piedmont Walton; she’d meet them there. So, the family headed to the hospital.

By the time Clark arrived at Piedmont Walton, his speech was slowly returning to normal. In order to determine what had happened, he had a CT scan, an MRI, and an echocardiogram (ECHO) to look at his heart. Once his imaging results came back, he was seen by a telehealth neurologist who diagnosed a series of TIAs, sometimes called mini-strokes, in the area of his brain that impacts speech. He was admitted to the hospital for further observation and treatment while the doctors tried to determine what had caused the stroke. It turns out that during the ECHO, doctors had noticed a hole between his left and right atrium, a patent foramen ovale, or PFO.

A PFO is a hole in the heart that does not close after birth. At 19 years old, Clark had lived with this condition his entire life and never had issues. His doctors suspected that a recent appendectomy and wisdom teeth removal surgery, followed by a period of physical inactivity, had caused a clot that eventually made its way to his brain. On September 26, Clark had surgery at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital to close the hole.

Hunter Clark (far right) with his family. Contributed photo

Clark recently moved to Illinois as part of a three-year training program with his employer, Rivian. He feels better than ever and has no lasting effects from the stroke, thanks to his family’s quick action. Already a close family, his stroke brought him and Kristen closer. He’s grateful for her steady confidence in the emergency room and in the days that followed. He encourages people to educate themselves on what a stroke is and what its symptoms can look like. He wants them to understand that strokes can happen at any age, but with quick treatment, patients like him have a better chance at a full recovery. 

Piedmont Walton is a DNV-certified Acute Stroke Ready Center and is designated by the Georgia Department of Health as a Remote Stroke Treatment Center. To learn more about stroke care at Piedmont Walton, visit piedmont.org/stroke.

For more information, or booking your next appointment, visit piedmont.org

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