Grandmother finds specialized stroke & heart care when & where she needs it most

Jule Hicks, emergency, stroke and heart care patient
Abrazo West Campus | Abrazo Central Campus | Abrazo Arrowhead Campus

Abrazo_Jule-Hicks-171955_FINAL_RevAs a NASCAR fan, Jule Hicks knows a lot about speed. But on Nov. 10, 2013, she learned just how fast life can come to a halt.   

Jule was at a race at Phoenix International Raceway when her husband noticed that she was not acting right. She tried handing a sandwich to her daughter and it fell to the ground.  A friend who is a nurse told him she may have had a stroke. Her husband didn’t waste a second.  

“My husband took me quickly to the EMTs at the track,” Jule recalls. “I was air lifted to the hospital where doctors began immediate surgery to remove the clot from my brain.”

The doctors stopped the bleeding, and Jule later learned she had suffered an acute ischemic stroke, meaning the blood supply to part of her brain had been cut off by a blood clot. If not treated quickly, a stroke of this magnitude could have caused severe brain damage or even death.

Luckily for Jule, she was able to get to Abrazo West Campus quickly from the speedway. After receiving stabilizing treatment and a diagnosis, doctors determined that the neurological experts at Abrazo ​Central Campus would be the best people to perform her surgery. Since both hospitals are part of the Abrazo system, Jule got the care she needed without having to switch providers during a critical time. And in fact, since her stroke, Jule has visited another Abrazo specialty center, the cardiac unit at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus, to determine that her stroke was actually caused by a heart problem. She has aterial fibrillation which causes a rapid heart rate and poor circulation throughout her body. She had two ablation operations and takes medication to help steady her heart rhythm.

Jule’s recovery has been remarkable. Her stroke affected her memory and speech, and she had to relearn basic skills all over again. Now she’s working hard at rehab, making progress every day. 

I sometimes have trouble remembering numbers or words or following directions,” Jule says. “But right after my stroke, I hadn’t been able to talk at all, and now I can talk fine. I’m doing very well. 

Jule’s family has been instrumental in her recovery, both as a support system and as a motivation to get healthy. Her husband is beside her every step of the way, and if rehab ever gets too tough, she just thinks of her grandkids and finds the strength to continue.  

“Everything I do is a little bit slower, but now I’m even going back to the gym,” she says. “My new grandson is one of my reasons to get well.”