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Decatur Central softball coach shares story of surviving 2 strokes

Don and Kelly Ivey
Posted at 5:30 AM, Jan 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-17 11:36:12-05

INDIANAPOLIS — As a family man and softball coach at Decatur Central High School, Don Ivey wastes no time.

“On the go, 100 miles per hour and no breaks,” he said.

However, Ivey's life came to a halt in August 2021, when he felt sick.

“That morning it was just vomiting and dizziness,” his wife, Kelly, said.

Don said he didn’t suspect a stroke, so, “I was going to sleep it off.”

His wife let him sleep it off, too.

“I feel like I’m a person who kind of knew what stroke symptoms were, but it was not, that didn’t even enter my mind because I didn’t see any of those signs,” Kelly said.

Those stroke signs didn’t show up until later, when Decatur Township medics drove Don to the hospital and his face started to droop.

So, they rushed him to Franciscan Health Indianapolis, which has a certified stroke facility.

Doctors put Don in the intensive care unit that evening, but on his sixth day of being there he had second stroke and was completely locked into his body.

“I was trying to look up or give them any kind of sign that I’m here, I’m alive, but I couldn’t move or couldn’t answer them,” Don said.

Kelly said she hurried to his side.

“You know it’s really hard and to think we had just had our first grand baby, five days before he had a stroke,” she said. “I still get emotional just thinking about it and talking about it, but it was by far one of the scariest moments of my life.”

With his life on the line, Dr. Daniel Sahlein and his stroke team with Goodman Campbell Brain and Spine jumped in to perform an emergency thrombectomy.

A thrombectomy uses a small catheter to reach the head to remove the clot and restore the blood flow.

Then just like that Don could move his softball-coaching arms again.

“It was a really powerful movement for everybody on the team,” Sahlein said.

He said it takes all the right people in all the right place, to save lives like Don’s during a stroke.

“Time is brain, and when you have a facility like this on the south side of Indianapolis, serving a large population of the south side, I think that it’s going to play a pivotal role in helping the community,” Sahlein said.

Had Don’s second stroke not happened in the hospital, he likely wouldn’t be alive today, and the moments of pure panic now serve as life purpose for the Iveys.

“Maybe the purpose is sharing with others that sometimes, what you might think initially is just symptoms of something else, is really more serious and that you need to take action,” Kelly said.

Don continued his rehabilitation at Franciscan Health and returned home in a little over a week.

While he says his energy isn't back to where he wants it, Don is able to throw a softball again.

And the memory of his stroke still leaves Don speechless. However, he finds his words to share the gratitude he feels for all the emergency and medical providers who gave him more time to live his life.

“Keep doing your job and making people get better,” Don said.

Know the signs of a stroke

According to the American Heart Association, someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. So here are the signs of a stroke.

Doctors use the acronym “BE FAST.”

  • B: Balance. If you see any sudden loss of balance, coordination, or experience dizziness, that’s a red flag.
  • E: Sudden eye-sight changes, in one or both of your eyes, which includes blurry, double vision, or a loss of vision.
  • F: Facial droop or an un-even smile.
  • A: Arm weakness or numbness on one side of the body.
  • S: Slurred or jumbled speech.
  • T: Time, which means you need to immediately call 911.

Click here for more info!

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