Teri Ackerson Missouri
For years, Teri Ackerson has been working to improve the system of care for Kansas City-area stroke patients. Through her work as the stroke coordinator at Centerpoint Medical Center, and as a volunteer for the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, Teri has been dedicated to increasing awareness about stroke warning signs and helping implement science-based guidelines for patients experiencing a stroke.
And thank goodness. Because in an unexpected twist of fate last Memorial Day, she needed that system to save her own life.
The 43-year-old nurse, mother and triathlete was driving to Starbucks with her son when she suddenly lost control of her left arm and became unable to speak. After pulling over, she pointed to the clock in the car for her son to note the time, knowing just how important it would be for doctors to know when symptoms began. Her son asked if he should call 911, but she knew there was a primary stroke center less than a mile away. Fortunately, she was able to receive tPA, the clot-busting drug that must be administered within three hours of the onset of stroke.
As a lifelong runner and triathlete, Teri wasn’t exactly considered high risk for stroke. She hadn’t experienced any symptoms prior to the sudden onset that morning. So the irony of her story isn’t lost on her, and its profundity isn’t either.
“I’m a runner, and I have always taken good care of my body,” Teri said. “But that doesn’t mean I’m immune from stroke. I’m the perfect example of why it’s important to know the warning signs and to get help immediately. I’ve always been proud of the work I do, and been passionate about it. But now, I have even more personal reasons to continue doing what I do to impact stroke identification and treatment in Kansas City. And I’m in a great position to do that, as a nurse and a volunteer for the American Heart Association.”
Teri is part of a team of volunteers and staff who share research-based clinical guidelines for heart and stroke care through the American Heart Association’s quality and systems improvement efforts. Studies show that hospitals implementing American Heart Association/American Stroke Association quality improvement programs improve patient outcomes, reduce average length of inpatient stays and decrease readmissions.
Her lists of accomplishments continue despite her stroke. Just twenty-six days after, she ran in and completed a marathon. On November 15, 2013, she completed her 1,000th mile of the year, just 10 days before her heart surgery to fix the defect that caused the stroke. She is planning on running her first miles post-surgery on Christmas Morning.