After a 41-year-old father of five suffered a stroke, he shared his near death experience to provide support to other survivors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ray Forsythe remembered the morning like any other, with one noticeable difference.
"I got up, I never have a headache, but that particular morning I had a headache," Forsythe said.
His family was headed to a local mall for an appointment for one of his children, but after they arrived Forsythe said he had trouble holding a clipboard and went back to the car. Shortly after, his wife, a trained cardiac nurse noticed her husband having trouble speaking and called 911.
"Once we got to the hospital and they told her there's nothing they can do," Forsythe said.
Doctors told Forsythe he had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, and they would likely lose him overnight. A painful memory Forsythe said, he shared with his family.
His condition improved, and his wife moved Forsythe to Brooks Rehabilitation in Jacksonville for physical and speech therapy. Forsythe recovered physically and made it his life's work to help others through the "Yess Foundation."
Now, during a global pandemic, Forsythe has been offering support to other patients with compromised immune systems.
"I think in the stroke community, just because the governor said open the state it's not changing us, our immune system is already compromised, so we're taking precaution just like the state is closed," Forsythe said.
“I mean do I want to go take an elective surgery right now at the hospital? No, I don’t," Forsythe said. "I don’t want to be close to the hospital unless it’s absolutely necessary.”
Getting patients back to their regularly scheduled appointments has been a challenge during the pandemic.
Cardiologist and stroke specialist at Emory University Hospital Dr. Abhinav Goyal said recent literature on the subject could have grave consequences.
"The number of patients coming in for urgent heart attacks is dropping by almost half, " Goyal said.
The problem, in many cases, is patients are not willing to risk contracting COVID-19 for a routine appointment.
“What is bearing out across the world is people are sitting on these symptoms and they’re having heart attacks and strokes that can be fatal at home, or they’re presenting so late that much of the damage has already been done,” Goyal said.
Many doctors offices are offering patients the option to schedule regular appointments online, which can help if patients are worried about visiting the office.
“If you have a computer or a smartphone you can do that very easily and often on the same day to discuss any concerning symptoms you have, there is zero COVID risk from doing that,” Goyal said.
Even with his reservations about returning to elective surgeries, Forsythe said nothing can replace quick thinking during a stroke. He thanked his wife for recognizing his symptoms and ultimately, saving his life.
Visit YessFoundation.org for support group times and locations.