Stroke survivor reflects on life after lifesaving care at UAB
Patient Spotlight: Scott Stanfield
What was your life like before you came to UAB Medicine? At 55 years old, my life was basically perfect, and I was blessed with a great family, career, and health. I was running a large division at work, exercising, boating, vacationing, traveling, and “ruling the world”. It seemed like I was going 24/7, and I loved every minute of it.
Was there a memorable moment or experience you had with a member of your care team? Overall, my care was fantastic. I had several memorable moments, but one that stands out was the night before my carotid endarterectomy when Dr. (Winfield) Fisher came into my room with his residents. We discussed the surgery, and I asked him which resident would be in the surgery with him. Dr. Fisher sort of snickered and said, “We’ll decide that later”. It felt like a “Grey’s Anatomy” moment. The other thing that stands out to me was the incredible coordination and communication between Dr. (Ekaterina) Bakradze’s neurosciences team and Dr. Fisher’s neurovascular surgery team.
How/why did you choose UAB Medicine for your care? At the time, my daughter was a nurse in UAB’s Neurosciences ICU, and when she got involved with my case, she articulated the confidence she had in the UAB neuro team, the surgeons, and the entire stroke unit. She was adamant that my best care would be with the UAB team and staff who she supported daily.
How did you feel when you received your diagnosis? As a vibrant and energetic 55-year-old, hearing that I’d had a stroke was a gut punch. Lots of thoughts went through my head: Would I die, would I be paralyzed, and was this a normal part of being older that I had to accept? Was my spiritual life in order, and how could I ensure that my family wasn’t burdened with me and that they’d be ok? As the surgery approached, I grew to accept that I could die. I found peace and comfort through my faith that I was going to be ok either way – that there would be a place for me regardless. I also grew confident in my health care team and that I had a good chance of leading a normal life. I am fortunate to have survived the strokes with no deficits.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned from this experience? I’ve learned that our health can take a sharp turn at any moment without any warning. I’ve learned that I’m not invincible. I’ve learned that the UAB Neurosciences team is at the forefront of the medical industry. I’ve learned that my faith provides peace through life’s ultimate twists and turns. I’ve learned that it’s ok to be tired and weak for a few weeks, because it allows my body to recover so I can be strong. I’ve learned that I can get through two strokes and be as vibrant as before. I’ve learned that worrying and being depressed doesn’t affect things one way or the other, so I might as well be happy. I’ve learned that I can count on my family and my tremendous circle of friends.
Why should someone choose UAB Medicine for health care? It’s a teaching hospital, so it’s where doctors learn how to be doctors. The intra- and inter-team coordination among specialists is phenomenal. UAB probably sees more patients with your illness in a day than your local hospital sees in a month or maybe longer. UAB is equipped to handle the uniqueness of your case. UAB cares from day one and still cares a year later during your follow-up.
What surprised you the most about UAB Medicine, your experience, your care team, or your treatment plan? The most surprising thing to me was the coordination and communication among the entire health care team. I’m accustomed to being the intermediary between hospital staff with my care and my family’s care. At UAB, though, I never felt like I had to understand every detail of my situation or that I had to help with the team’s communication and coordination. Two more surprising aspects were the knowledge of the nurses and technicians in the stroke unit and the fact that there were residents right down the hall 24/7 should I need them.
What were your perceptions of UAB Medicine before you became a patient? What are they now, and how did they change? What was the biggest surprise? My perception of UAB was outstanding because I had grown up in a very small town, and UAB was clearly the best hospital for any complicated or unique medical issue. However, at the time of my stroke, I had been living in Huntsville, Ala. for 30 years. I often wondered how Huntsville’s health care compared to UAB. Today, I am very thankful that my daughter demanded that I move to UAB for my care. After experiencing UAB as a patient, I know we made the right decision to trust my health care to UAB.
What have you learned since your diagnosis or since your treatment or recovery? I’ve learned that even after a stroke, I can choose to be afraid, discouraged, and depressed or I can choose to be confident, happy, and attack life head on and live it to the fullest extent possible. I’ve chosen the latter.
What is your outlook for the future? My prognosis is good, but having two strokes suggests that things happen that can’t be predicted. So, my outlook is to live each day to the fullest and plan to live until I’m 95. However, if/when things end for me, I want my family to know that I died happy and that I’m in heaven with the ones who are waiting for me.
What do you think others should know about UAB Medicine? Others should know that UAB is likely the best hospital for their unique situation in this area, and if it isn’t, they’ll let you know.
Who is/was your most important support person or group? My support was first, through my faith, then my wife and kids, and then my circle of friends and co-workers. I had a very large division at my company, Dynetics Inc., and the outpouring from my company and my co-workers was just incredible. They may never know how important their prayers, encouragement, and support were to me.
Why are you willing to share your experience? I want others to have the opportunity to benefit from my experience. I can be a pretty prideful guy, full of energy, and sometimes I feel like I can conquer the world. The stroke kicked me in the gut. I never saw a stroke as a “cool medical issue” like a football injury. I saw a stroke as an issue for people older than me or less outgoing, so I didn’t really want to talk about it. I was wrong. I want people to know that a stroke can happen to them, and they can get the treatment they need to overcome it and enjoy a quality life. I want people to know that they can have a stroke and still be one of the “cool kids.”
How does your experience reveal what UAB Medicine is all about? I think that the facts of my experience tell the story of what UAB is all about. There are lots of details that I could share, but I don’t have the room to write them all. The entire experience from start to finish was just incredible. The whole scene was a template for how health care treatment should be implemented.
What is your favorite quote to live by? Life is too short to worry about _____.” Just fill in the blank with whatever is worrying you. I wrote, “Life is too short to worry about finances” to my wife in a letter in 1989 before we were married and while I was still in college. We still have that letter. I’ve always been that way. So, for me now, “Life is too short for me to spend my precious time worrying about having another stroke”. I also live by, “Work hard, play hard” and “Leave yourself room to be right.”
What inspires you? Life inspires me. I can be an adrenaline junkie. I just enjoy life, I am full of energy, and I want to work hard, play hard, love hard, see it all, do it all, and conquer it all. I want to uplift and encourage people and make them laugh, and I hope to leave a lasting contribution to this world.
What was the most challenging part of your experience or health care journey? The first few weeks after my strokes, I was overly analytical to every measure of my health – blood pressure, heart rate, headaches, nausea, tiredness, weakness, etc. I overanalyzed each thing as if it could be another stroke. Fortunately, after a few weeks, I learned that those things were not signs of another stroke and that I could go outside and play – which I am doing every day!
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