Stroke: How a Woman Helped Save Her Friend

Merry Jo Escher didn't feel good. Her quick-thinking friend recognized the symptoms and got help.

Posted in , Oct 2, 2018

A woman helps her friend in distress.

Content provided by Good Samaritan Society.

If you saw someone who looked sick, would you have the confidence to ask if they felt all right? Would you know if they were having a stroke?

On a summer morning in 2004, Merry Jo Escher woke up not feeling well. She was on a business trip and had been at a golf outing the evening before, where she had had a few drinks and had golfed with people who were smoking.

She figured that was the reason for how she was feeling, and she got ready for a sales call. On her drive to the appointment, she felt terrible and started seeing double, so she drove back to where she was staying. After resting for a while, she decided to take off again.

By the time she neared her destination, Merry Jo, a 48-year-old, was only seeing light and dark, but she was able to cross a major intersection and get to the building.

When she walked in, the receptionist, Verda, asked her how she was feeling. They had known each other for years, and something seemed off to Verda.

After Merry Jo told her the symptoms she was experiencing, Verda called the company’s head of safety and told him he needed to get Merry Jo to the ER because she was having a stroke.

"I didn’t think I was having a stroke. I knew the signs." – Merry Jo Escher, stroke survivor

The doctor she saw was a cardiologist. He confirmed she was having a stroke and asked about her medications. She was on birth control pills at the time, and a stroke was one of the classic side effects of the pill.

Merry Jo had started taking a low-dose birth control pill when her insurance company wouldn’t pay for her to have a hysterectomy. "I was in complete denial because of my age," says Merry Jo. "It was the last thing on my mind."

After her ER visit and overnight hospital stay, she made an appointment at Mayo Clinic, where she found out she had a small blood clot in her brain.

Two to three years before Merry Jo started feeling back to normal. “I didn’t feel bad,” says Merry Jo. “I just didn’t feel right.”

After the stroke, she lost the ability to do math and slurred her words. “I worked really hard on doing Sudoku and any math challenges to keep my mind as sharp as possible,” she says. “I also continued to take baby aspirin daily for the next several years.”

She still slurs some words today when she’s tired, and her right eye droops slightly. But she is thankful to be alive.

"It kind of brings you back to earth that anything can happen to anybody. There’s a reason for things, and it’s not my place to understand." – Merry Jo Escher

She considers Verda her guardian angel for spotting the stroke and seeing things she didn’t. When they talked about it in the years that followed, Verda said she didn’t even know what made her think it, but she was positive it was a stroke.

Merry Jo says, “I truly believe God was looking over my shoulder.”

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