My Stroke Story: Julia Rush

Hickory Artist Julia Rush Shares Her Stroke Story

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 “I thank my body every day for saving me,” said Rush.

“Ellen, do I sound like I’m slurring my words?” asked Julia Rush during a phone call with sister, Ellen Atkins of Colombia, MO. “Yes, Julia – you do,” said Atkins.

Having a stroke was not the way famed local artist Julia Rush, 73 expected to recover from a total left hip replacement December, 2014. It was just eight days following that surgery and her partner Arne Troelstra, also noticed a droop in the left side of Rush’s face. Immediately, they called an ambulance, which arrived within minutes. The emergency medical response team inquired about Rush’s hospital of choice.

“Even though Frye is just five blocks from my home, I insist they take me to Catawba Valley Medical Center,” said Rush. Julia’s late husband, Beemer Harrell, a well-known Hickory architect passed away at CVMC six years ago of a massive stroke. The care he and the family received that day left a positive and lasting impression on Rush.

At CVMC, Rush learned she had suffered a right hemisphere mini-stroke, or transient ischemic attack (TIA) caused by a blood clot that was stopping the blood flow to her brain. She was told that she could thank her body’s own clot busting mechanism for the fact that she doesn’t have permanent or debilitating damage.

“I don’t consider what I had a “mini stroke,” said Rush. “To me a TIA is a warning stroke – a warning I take very seriously”.

According to the American Stroke Association, about a third of patients who experience TIA, go on to have a stroke within the following year. Rush has several other medical conditions that add to that risk.

“Julia is a golden example of how CVMC’s investment in advanced technology helps avoid delays in potentially life-saving situations,” said Robert Yapundich, MD, a Neurologist and CVMC Stroke Program Manager. “There is no way to predict when a clot will dissolve on its own, so time is critical.“

After just two days in CVMC In-Patient Rehabilitation Unit, Julia was discharged and allowed to go home to her second-floor loft in the brick building that bears her name in Hickory’s Union Square. A home evaluation was performed prior to her return by CVMC Occupational Therapy to review her daily living tasks and recommend modifications to optimize her home environment for safety. Although Rush currently walks with a cane, she has achieved numerous rehabilitation goals. She makes jewelry, maintains a very busy social life and traveling. Motivated by fear of having another stroke, Julia strictly adheres to her physical therapy plan, exercises frequently, follows her medication regimen and embraces healthy eating.

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