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June 23, 2011 Issue

Too young to die
First storm in months knocks out power

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Too young to die

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

Oct. 13, 2010, is a day that has changed one local woman’s life forever. That morning, Wrens resident and business owner Shelly Parker woke up with a severe headache and neck pain.

“I just thought, because I have neck problems, I could go to the chiropractor,” she said.

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Since she has had neck pain before, she continued with her day by going to work in her hair salon near her home, working until lunch time. Afterwards she and a friend went to the mall in Augusta.

“While we were in the mall, we went by one of those places that sprays cologne,” Parker explained. “I inhaled it. Within 10 minutes I felt really sick and nauseous.”

Her problems were just beginning. Soon the women went to eat lunch in the food court and Parker could not even swallow her meal.

“My face and arm were numb on the left hand side,” she remembered. “I got the doctor on the phone and we thought it was an allergic reaction.”

Parker was told to take Benadryl.

“I went home and started feeling worse,” she said.

Parker was taken to Dr. James Ford’s office in Wrens, where she was given a steroid shot.

“I couldn’t walk when I left,” she explained. “I felt like my body was numb on the left and I was uncoordinated on the right. I just thought I was sleepy.”

With her neck pain and headache still causing her problems as well, Parker visited the chiropractor, which did not help either.

“The next morning I woke up with the same symptoms,” she said.

When she would get up to walk, Parker would stumble and fall. After contacting Dr. Ford’s office again, he told her to go to the emergency room at Trinity Hospital in Augusta immediately.

“Dr. Ford said it could be neurological.”

Doctors began with a battery of tests. One involved a neurologist pricking her with a pin.

“I could feel it a little, but I was very numb,” she said. “He came back in later and said, ‘You’ve had a stroke.’”

The stroke that Parker suffered was thought to be so unusual for a woman her age, only 36 at the time, Parker as well as the doctors and nurses could not believe a disease that strikes down the elderly would ever affect a seemingly healthy woman as herself.

Facing her husband in the room, Parker’s lips barely released a whisper as she looked astonished saying the word, “stroke.”

“I could not fathom or believe it,” she said, exasperated. “The only strokes I had heard about were in older people. I began to wonder if I would be able to walk again. I mean people die from strokes and its disabilities. I was really lucky.”

What caused Parker’s stroke was vertebral artery dissection, which is a flap-like tear or dissection of the inner lining of the vertebral artery that is located in the neck and supplies blood to the brain. The stroke was caused when blood entering the arterial wall formed a blood clot that thickened the artery wall, impeding the blood flow.

The same pain that Parker was feeling that Oct. 13 morning, are the expected symptoms, which include head and neck pain and intermittent or permanent stroke symptoms such as difficulty speaking, eating or walking, impaired coordination and visual loss.

Her doctor’s believe that inhaling the colgne that morning triggered the stroke.

“It just put everything into motion,” she said. “They called it spontaneous.”

Parker was in the intensive care unit at Trinity for four days, while doctors worked to read her MRIs and find a course of treatment. They had seen only one other case like Parker’s.

Vertebral artery dissection can be caused from blunt force trauma, from stress or it can be spontaneous. Doctors told her they do not believe she will have another stroke from the same problem again.

“Anytime I begin to feel stressed now, it hurts in my neck,” Parker said. “I have three boys who are into everything, so stress was probably a big cause.”

Parker was given Heparin to thin her blood. With the blood thinned, it would be enough to heal the flap that once blocked her artery.

Entering the hospital on a Thursday, Parker was released the following Monday, using a cane to walk for about a week. She had to take the blood thinner for six months, while she will take an aspirin each day for the rest of her life, while still feeling a lasting tingling from her knee down.

“There may be really no way to prevent it,” Parker explained. “Unless you know the tear is there.”

While most only hear of strokes in the elderly, as Parker returned home, she began to research her condition and found that it is not that uncommon in young to middle aged people such as herself. While some do suffer lifelong problems from the stroke or even die, more than 75 percent recover completely or with minimal impact on functioning.

Her husband, Patrick, tried to make everything as normal as possible for her and her three children, Tucker, 14, Javan, 11, and Baylor, 5. At the time, Parker said they only knew they could not see their mother for four days.

“They really didn’t understand,” she said. “They just see that I’m well now.”

As the digital age grows, so did the announcement of Parker’s stroke.

“It was all over Facebook,” she laughed.

Her husband contacted friends and family who all seemed to be in disbelief that this was happening to their Shelly.

“I have people who ask me about it now, that didn’t realize someone young could have a stroke,” Parker said. “At the time, even the nurses couldn’t believe it.”

Parker even said that she did not know of any strokes in her family at all.

“I found a blog about it,” she said. “It helped me to see that mine could have been worse.”

Now Parker takes things at a slower pace. She finally returned to work two months later.

“I try to limit how much work I do,” she said. “Some days I give out and have to cancel. The first time I had an anxiety attack, I felt really disconnected, but it was only that one time.”

One thing she did realize from this terrible ordeal was that she has love coming to her from her husband; mother; Virginia Garrett; three boys; numerous friends and the Wrens community.

“When I got home I felt very blessed for all my friends, family and customers,” she smiled. “They sent a lot of cards, food, prayers, gift cards and money. Everybody was so generous and helpful. This made me find out how special I was.”




First storm in months knocks out power

By Faye Ellison
Staff Writer

The first significant rain much of the area has seen in months came this week along with strong winds and lightning that started several grass fires.

Beginning on Wednesday, June 15, many residents were taken by surprise as winds began to whip through the trees, eventually giving way to lightning, power outages and damage.

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Jeff Wilson, a media representative with Georgia Power, said that the storm Wednesday left about 50,000 east Georgia customers without power, with the bulk of the outages being in Richmond and Columbia counties.

“It was storm related,” Wilson said. “We had winds knock over a lot of trees.”

Georgia Power serves 2.4 million customers in the state and 152,000 customers in the eastern region, which includes parts of Jefferson and Glascock counties, as well as Augusta, Evans, Thomson and Waynesboro.

“We do serve more primarily in the towns and larger cities of the state, than in rural places,” Wilson said. “We have customers in all but four counties in Georgia.”

By Saturday, when electricity was finally restored to all of the customers another storm swept in that afternoon, causing Wrens to have about 2,000 customers without power from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and about 100 in Gibson from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. on Sunday.

“Those were storm-related, too,” Wilson said. “We saw a lot of high winds knocking trees down again.”

Crews from around the state along with crews from Alabama, Tennessee, South Carolina and Florida helped Georgia Power with the task of restoring power.

“It has been non-stop restoration since the middle of last week,” Wilson said.

Most Georgia Power customers have had their energy source restored except some in Savannah and northwest Georgia on Monday, June 20.

The more rural customers in the counties lost power Wednesday as well through Jefferson Energy.

“We had 12,000 customers out in primarily McDuffie and Richmond counties,” Steve Chalker, a representative with Jefferson Energy, said. “But there were scattered outages across our coverage area.”

While linemen worked to basically rebuild some of the lines, Chalker said, most had their power back by Friday afternoon.

“On Saturday it was a combo of the storms and trees falling on lines,” Chalker said, adding that a line that was down elsewhere because of storms, also affected the area leaving 2,100 customers without power.

But power was restored by Sunday morning. Jefferson Energy serves 11 different counties, including Jefferson and Glascock.

EMA Director Mike Lyons said Glascock County has been very fortunate with not having too much damage with the storms.

“We had some folks without power and a few trees in the roadways,” he said. “We didn’t get as much rain out of the one on Wednesday.”

On Saturday, Lyons said that Calhoun Street residents in Gibson were without power.

Wednesday’s storm was the worst of the two for Jefferson County, according to Jefferson County EMA Director Adam Mestres.

“We actually had a power outage here at our call center and a number of trees down that blocked roads,” he said.

Downed trees or lines were reported on Campground Road, Highway 88 East, Harvey Street in Stapleton, Cooper Road in Wadley, North Jay Street, Highway 221 North, Alex Stephens Road in Bartow and limbs on the lines on Russell Street in Wrens causing sparking at transformer sites.

“Their sheriff’s office, where the 911 center is, had power go out and the emergency generator kicks on in three to five seconds,” Mestres assured. “Everything in dispatch is on an uninterrupted power supply.”

Saturday’s storm caused several grass fires in Wrens, including one on Highway 1 North and Highway 224, because of downed power lines during the peak of the storm.




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