Changing Course After a Stroke

April 03, 2014

Most 27 year olds don’t think about stroke happening to them. Andrea Pusztai didn’t. But she found out that strokes can happen to anyone at any age. The morning of May 3rd, 2009, started out like a typical Sunday morning. She was feeling a little tired and decided to take a shower to help her wake up. When her arm became rigid and flew up in the air, she immediately knew something was very wrong. Andrea collapsed in a semi-conscious state onto the hamper outside of her shower, and has a vague memory of what happened next.

Fortunately, she wasn’t home alone. Andrea’s partner, Nicole Lepkosky was in the other room talking to her father online with a webcam when she heard odd sounds coming from the bathroom. “I called out a few times to Andrea but she didn’t answer,” Nicole recalled. “So I went to check and I saw her slumped over. I knew immediately that she was in trouble.” She pulled Andrea up, looked at her face, and when she saw one side drooping, she recognized it immediately as a sign of stroke. Acting quickly, she dashed back out to the kitchen and yelled to her neighbors for help while grabbing the phone to dial 9-1-1. Her father, who was still online from New York via webcam, grabbed his own phone and called Nicole’s brothers. Help was on the way.

Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro, a certified Advanced Primary Stroke Center and part of the Los Angeles County stroke network, was notified by paramedics of Andrea’s condition and a stroke team was immediately activated. By the time Andrea arrived at the hospital, the team was ready and rapidly assessed her situation.

“Because Andrea told us she had been cracking her neck just before she had the stroke, a ‘dissection’ was suspected,” explained Darcie Fitzgerald, the hospital’s manager of rehabilitation services. “This is a stroke caused by a tear in the lining of a neck artery.”

Following an initial workup, the hospital immediately connected with specialists within the LA County stroke network. Being part of this network allows the hospital to work with others and gives the advantage to connect with specialists for clinical consultations.

A dissection was ruled out and it was discovered that Andrea had a patent foramen ovale (PFO), a hole in her heart. Andrea was transferred to a facility where a specialist was able to correct the PFO. She then returned to Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center San Pedro to work with physical and occupational therapists for outpatient rehabilitation.

Andrea has always been goal-oriented, athletic and strong – characteristics that have no doubt helped in her recovery.

 “Andrea’s consistently positive attitude has made her recovery go quite well,” Physical Therapist Anne Sheridan explained. “She’s been noticed by other patients and by our staff for her sense of humor and her willingness to accept the situation and work with it. She gives it everything she’s got. Rehabilitation is a much longer process than most people realize and she’s not the kind of person who gets discouraged by that.”

Although Andrea had hoped to attend the police academy, she has revised her goals because of physical limitations. She is currently attending Harbor College, working to ultimately earn a degree in social work.

Having experienced life as a young stroke victim, Andrea is especially interested in helping other young stroke victims.“It’s been more than a year of hard work and I’m still trying to regain function on my left side but there comes a time where you have to be willing to get on with your life and move on,” Andrea explained. “I’m happy with who I am and I accept this situation. And I have a lot of living to do!”