Health Matters

A miracle in the making: Karen Cooper’s stroke survival story

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Ronnie and Karen Cooper are all smiles as they celebrate 46 years of marriage and Karen’s miraculous recovery from a recent stroke. (photo/HMC)

On November 14, 2016, Karen Cooper of Sautee Nacoochee woke up with a terrible headache.  She had been suffering for several days from what she thought was a bad sinus infection.  At one point, the headache was so bad she fell to her knees in pain, but went back to bed.  Deeply concerned, her husband, Ronnie called to schedule an appointment for her to see her doctor.  When they arrived at the doctor’s office, the nurse practitioner took one look at her and said, “You have to get to the ER right away.”

Upon arrival in the Habersham Medical Center ER, Karen was immediately taken to have a CT scan.  “It was all happening very fast, and I don’t remember most of what was happening or going on around me,” says Karen.  “I do remember hearing the words ‘life flight.’  There were major wildfires at this time in nearby Tennessee, and the heavy smoke lingering over North Georgia made it impossible for medical helicopters to fly.  They had to transport me by ambulance to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.”

Karen woke up the next day in Emory’s ICU.  A neurosurgeon repaired the ruptured aneurysm and said she would be in the hospital for 21-28 days.  But, incredibly, she was well enough to go home in only 13 days, and she has no residual effects from the stroke – no paralysis, speech impairments or memory loss.  “The only rehab I had was when I was in the hospital; when they got me out of bed to walk,” says Karen.

Her doctors call her a miracle.  “They said it was a miracle I made it to the nearest hospital -much less to Atlanta.  In fact, the neurosurgeon called me a “bona fide miracle!”

Firm in her faith, Karen says, “I was never afraid.  I remained calm and felt I was wrapped in a protective cocoon through it all as if I had the Lord’s touch and protection.  My husband said he never once thought he was going to lose me.  We were just taking care of business.”

“The only symptoms I had were pressure behind my eyes and then the excruciating headache.  I really had no idea I was having something as serious as a stroke.  When I fell to my knees that morning that was apparently the moment the blood clot or aneurysm in my brain ruptured.”

“I am unbelievably blessed and fortunate to have made it through.  The best advice I can give others is to go see your doctor or call 9-1-1 immediately if you have any concerns; do not wait.  My nurse took one look at me and realized I needed immediate care.”

I truly had the best medical team.  Every medical professional involved in my care from Dr. Rhett Weaver/Longstreet Clinic, Habersham Medical Center, Habersham EMS to the professionals at Emory were all focused on getting me better.  From pre-surgery to post-surgery, everyone was saying the same things over-and-over, and everyone was speaking the same language or using the same terminology.  No one was saying anything differently.  They were all talking in a manner my family and I could understand.  You could tell they were all highly trained and the teamwork they displayed was incredible.”

Karen smiles, “I’m blessed to have a wonderful family and healthcare team.  The medical and emotional support I have received has been terrific.  Everyone has gone above and beyond.  Even the paramedics were very kind and gentle.  I vaguely remember asking them to please not turn on the sirens because my head was hurting so bad and one of the paramedics said, “I tell you what, we will only turn the siren on when we have to get through traffic.  Will that be ok?”

“Today, less than six months later, the only thing that reminds me of my recent stroke scare is the fact that they shaved my hair for the surgery, so now I have a very modern, usual hair cut!  I think having brain surgery was the worst part.  In time, my skull will heal completely and my hair will grow back.  Based on what I’ve been through, this is really very minor. Miracles happen every day, and I am just so grateful, God chose to give me this one.”

Karen is looking forward to spending Mother’s Day with her family.  She now counts each day with them extra special and is blessed to be a mom, a stroke survivor, and a living miracle.


About the author: April James is Director of Business Development at Habersham Medical Center in Demorest, GA.

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