Young Stroke Survivor Thriving in Healthcare Career

Renee Gentry, RN, has worked at Memorial Medical Center (MMC) in neurosciences research and outcomes for nearly 20 years. In August 2018, she suffered a stroke at the age of 40 and received a lifesaving tPA and comprehensive stroke care at Memorial.

Renee’s initial stroke care came from MMC and her own work team. In 2020, MMC earned a Comprehensive Stroke Center designation for the third year in a row, the nation’s highest designation for stroke care and one of only 19 Illinois hospitals to achieve that level of certification.

“Thanks to one of our amazing neuro interventionists, Dr. Casey Muehle was able to identify the potential for MoyaMoya disease from reading my head CTs and MRI,” Gentry said. “I think it takes this higher level of knowledge to think outside the box of more typical neurological diagnoses that makes Memorial stand out and earn the highest-level Stroke Center designation.”

After her stroke, the mother of four, then ages 8, 13, 16 and 19, went through a battery of tests – CT, CTA, MRI and cerebral angiogram – and was formally diagnosed with MoyaMoya disease and referred to a specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

She went through two brain bypass surgeries, one on the left side and the other on the right. After recovering from complications, she finally returned to work in November 2019. She is grateful for the encouragement she received from her Memorial colleagues during her health crisis, recovery and upon her return.

“I have a unique perspective in that I am proud to say I work with one of the best stroke teams in the area, and I have received care from that same amazing team,” Gentry said. “The Comprehensive Stroke Center designation proves we are at the top of our class in diagnosing, treating and rehabilitating anyone with a neurological diagnosis. It allows us to recruit a higher caliber stroke team who can think outside of the box to quickly diagnose and treat rare conditions that can progress into life and death situations if not detected.”

Today, Renee, now 42, enjoys traveling with family and friends, watching her children grow up a little more every single day and savoring every single moment she has with the ones she loves.

“I am so grateful to work for an organization that helped pick me up when I had temporarily fallen,” she said. “Memorial helped get me back on my feet again.”

Memorial Health System includes two hospitals with earned certifications in stroke care from The Joint Commission, including Memorial Medical Center as a Comprehensive Stroke Center and Decatur Memorial Hospital as a Primary Stroke Center.