Stroke survivor’s message: Don’t delay care because of COVID-19 fears

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Updated: Jun. 12, 2020 at 5:11 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Kaui Burgess says nothing about her health hinted at what would happen on April 20 at 1:45 in the afternoon.

"The moment I knew something was wrong was when I couldn't control my eyes. My eyes crossed," she said.

One side of her body weakened. Her speech slurred. The wife and mother of three knew she was suffering a stroke.

"This was not a mini-stroke," she said. "This was a full-fledged ischemic stroke where I had a blood clot in my brain."

Her daughters called 911. But Burgess was concerned about catching COVID-19 in the hospital.

The Queen's Medical Center calmed her fears.

"We take a precaution for COVID to make sure that we don't expose our stroke patients with any kind of COVID," said Dr. Kazuma Nakagawa, medical director of the Queen's Stroke Center.

“They knew better than I did how to keep me safe. I just needed to trust,” Burgess said.

Queen's doctors gave her medication that dissolved the blood clot and reversed the stroke's effects.

“We lose about 1.9 million brain cells every minute during a stroke,” Nakagawa said. “The faster you get the treatment the more brain cells we can save.”

Burgess’s mother died of a stroke so she knew the warning signs.

"My husband knew. My children knew what happened to my mom. So we were always watching," she said.

She’s thankful she didn’t give in to her coronavirus concerns. “I feel great! I can think clearly. I’m back at my job,” she said.

On Friday, Burgess was reunited with Queen’s personnel who nursed her back to health.

She wants others to know the hospital is a safe place, and in an emergency every second counts.

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