Recovering from Stroke – Close to Home

Mike Dulakis

Mike Dulakis

Mike Dulakis was progressing through his normal workout Feb. 3 at Taylorville’s Lock Up Gym, lifting weights from a seated position, when everything changed. The 39-year-old guard for the Taylorville Correctional Facility was “training to failure,” a common weight-lifting strategy. Without warning, he slid out of the chair onto the floor in what felt like slow motion.

He doesn’t remember much after that.

“I was trying to get up, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t get up,” Mike said.

A paramedic working out at the gym recognized the signs of stroke, and gym personnel called 911 immediately.

“The guys at the gym were amazing,” said Mike’s wife, Wendy Dulakis, who was doing a cardio workout in another area of the gym when the incident happened. “His speech was slurred. His eyes were stuck to the right. He couldn’t move.”

An ambulance transported Mike to the Taylorville Memorial Hospital Emergency Department (ED) where he was examined by Anna McCormick, MD, the ED medical director.

Dr. McCormick was more accustomed to seeing the Dulakis’ teenage son, Austin or “Ozzy,” in the ED. She had treated Ozzy for a basketball injury one time and a collapsed lung another. But this wasn’t the younger Dulakis being wheeled into her department. It was Mike, and his situation was critical.

She and the TMH team immediately began stroke protocol to determine if Mike was a candidate for tPA—a blood clot busting drug.

“When he arrived, it was clear he was having a stroke,” Dr. McCormick said. “I was proud of how quickly the ED team was able to stabilize Mike and get a CT scan quickly. Both the neurologist at Memorial and our radiologist were reviewing the CT within minutes of its completion.”

While Mike was being transferred from the CT scan back to the ED, Tammy Foster, RN, was preparing the tPA shot.

“By the time Mike was back in the ED, which wasn’t long, we were ready to give the tPA,” Dr. McCormick said. “The shot is ideally given within three hours of the onset of a stroke, but the sooner you get it after a stroke, the better.”

Once Mike was given the shot, he was transferred to Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. The clot-busting drug was already working.

“When we walked into his room in intensive care, he was sitting up and demanding to go home,” Wendy said. “Our daughter, Grace, jumped into bed with him. We were so relieved.”

After several days, Mike went home where he faced fatigue, concentration issues and some weakness in his left hand. He started working with the rehabilitation and speech therapy staff at TMH and made steady progress before returning to work in late April.

During his recovery, he walked laps at the Kincaid Grade School and played P-I-G with Grace on the basketball court. He still can’t use his left hand to shoot hoops, but he isn’t complaining.

“We tried to be patient,” Wendy said of their family’s experience. “We prayed a lot. We had amazing support from family, friends and co-workers. And we are so grateful that the staff at TMH knew exactly what to do and moved quickly.”

Mike agrees.

“I was definitely at the right place at the right time,” he said. “People around me knew what to do, and I feel really lucky to have been so close to the hospital in Taylorville.”

In fall of 2014, TMH was designated an Emergent Stroke Ready Hospital by the Illinois Department of Public Health. That designation was assisted by a partnership in 2012 between TMH and MMC that included video-conferencing capabilities between Springfield-based neurologists and TMH radiologists and doctors.