Select Board chair Muriel Kramer announced that she experienced a stroke Wednesday evening, which prevented her from engaging in community activities late last week.
In an email to the Independent early Sunday afternoon, Kramer issued a public statement about what happened and urged residents to become aware of the signs of a stroke so that they can take immediate action and prevent long-term impacts. She also shared this information in a Facebook post shortly thereafter.
“Folks may have noticed that I was absent from a few key events in town last week and others are beginning to find out why,” she stated in the email. “On Wednesday evening while walking in Boston with a dear friend, I suffered a stroke, and then I got incredibly lucky. My friend recognized the warning signs, got me to a safe spot to sit, and called 9-1-1.
“[W]ithin 15 to 20 minutes I was at a stroke center at a large Boston hospital getting exactly the care I needed,” she continued. “Once treated appropriately, my frightening symptoms cleared, and I have experienced a full recovery. I am so very lucky.”
Kramer shared the signs of a stroke, known by the acronym FAST.
“The single best thing you can do for yourself or someone you are with who is exhibiting symptoms of a possible stroke is to get emergency medical help F.A.S.T.,” she noted.
F — Face. Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A — Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms in front of them. Does one side lag or droop?
S — Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase like, “It’s a bright sunny day.” Is the speech slurred or strange?
T — Time. Call 9-1-1 immediately rather than drive someone to the hospital; they will get seen more quickly arriving in an ambulance and can receive care while in transit.
“While riding in that ambulance unable to communicate for myself on Wednesday evening, I wasn’t thinking about work, or politics or holiday shopping, etc. — none of that truly matters.” Kramer stressed. “My thoughts were all on what matters most in this world to me — my family and my faith. I am so fortunate to be home, resting and spending time with my family. This holiday season I wish you peace, health and blessings, and I encourage you to give and receive every hug that presents itself as possible.”
In a followup email to the Independent, Kramer shared that she is “resting and doing well.”
Added Kramer: “I am blessed.”
In an interview Sunday afternoon, Kramer expressed her gratitude for her friend and the hospital staff at Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), noting that their quick actions prevented a more disastrous result.
“I experienced a tremendous amount of gratitude and fragility because of the stroke,” Kramer said.
When the event occurred Wednesday evening, she and a close friend were walking to a theater performance in Boston, she recounted. As she was using her cell phone to look at a map to the venue, Kramer said her friend noticed that she stopped talking in mid-sentence, causing alarm.
“This was actually the best-case scenario,” said Kramer. “It was so funky that I was close to a big hospital with a close friend who knew what to do, and also that I was evaluated and treated so quickly.”
Kramer added that her friend had the phone numbers of her husband and children so that she could relay information to the medical staff.
Her friend made sure that she was seated as soon as possible and went through the F.A.S.T. protocol before calling 911. Kramer was unable to speak to the emergency medical technicians at the time the ambulance arrived. She regained her ability to talk after several minutes and called her husband and children to alert them to what had happened. Kramer was admitted immediately to the BIDMC intensive care stroke care unit.
Shortly thereafter, she experienced a stroke as she was being examined by a doctor, Kramer said.
“The quality of care that I received was unbelievable,” she added. “The EMTs were great, the doctor was spot on, and the staff was attentive and genuinely caring.
“When I had the stroke in the hospital, the doctor talked to me. He understood the situation and tried to interrupt the stroke pattern,” she continued. “Before he got the attending physician, he said, ‘You’re doing great. I’ll be right back.’ It was reassuring that the unit was really wonderful and to have such access to quality healthcare.”
The attending physician administered tenecteplase, also known as TNK, intravenously. Kramer noted that this anticoagulant needs to be given within the first three to four hours after the stroke or it will no longer be effective in preventing permanent damage.
Said Kramer: “The whole urgency is time. It was a miracle that got it that quickly.”
She compared the experience of coming out of a stroke with being in a car in a car wash, describing the experience as “surreal.”
Said Kramer: “When I first started coming out of it, it was like the fog on the windshield got clear. Then God squeegeed my brain.”
After she returned home, she reached out to several friends to alert them of the situation and that she would not be making public appearances.
“I knew how important it was for them to actually hear my voice,” according to Kramer.
“I think it’s important to say that I’m not at any particular stroke risk,” Kramer continued. While her paternal grandmother “had a stroke later in life,” it was the result of having high blood pressure.
Kramer said she will be receiving followup care at the hospital’s stroke clinic. Until then, she is resting comfortably at home.