An Artist’s Brush with Stroke
Jim Menzel-Joseph is the quintessential artist. His passion for painting, sculpting, sketching and writing began when he was 15 years old.
Over the last 70 years, many of his art pieces have been exhibited in well-known museums and publications and he’s earned many honors and awards for his work. He even spent part of his career running a full-service art studio in New York City and another teaching a drawing class to students in California.
At 85 years young, Jim still has creative inspiration flowing through his veins. He possesses a wealth of history and wisdom and radiates a youthful spirit. His drive is boundless.
“If you send Jim any challenge, he’ll solve it,” explains Norma, Jim’s supportive wife of 33 years. Jim and Norma enjoy spending all of their time together. They focus on living positively and intentionally and love exploring the beauty the world offers. They value a healthy lifestyle and stick to a vegetarian and organic diet, plus exercise every day on their treadmill or elliptical machine. Norma will tell you that Jim still has his six-pack abs!
Leading such a healthy life, free from health concerns, Jim never expected that he would suffer a stroke.
The RACE of a Lifetime
On Saturday, Dec. 3, 2016, Jim and Norma were casually talking in their kitchen when Norma could no longer understand Jim’s sentences. “He started talking funny. At first, I told him to stop teasing. I’m just so used to him joking around with me,” said Norma. But moments later, she was stunned to see the right side of his face droop. Then, he fell out of his chair, unconscious.
Shocked and frightened, Norma dialed 9-1-1 for help. In a matter of minutes, an EMS ambulance arrived to their home. Stroke-trained first responders performed a RACE evaluation on Jim.
RACE or Rapid Arterial oCclusion Evaluation is a scale used by Lucas County paramedics to rate and score the severity of a patient’s stroke symptoms. The RACE-alert system was instituted in Lucas County in June 2015 with the time and education provided by local interventional vascular neurologists, Mouhammad Jumaa, MD, and Syed Zaidi, MD.
RACE-alert patients with severe stroke symptoms bypass local emergency rooms and are taken directly to the nearest hospital trained in acute stroke care. In Jim’s case, he showed very serious symptoms, including aphasia (speech difficulty) and weakness on the right side of his body.
Read more about stroke patient journeys.
The Art of Expert Care
The EMS team brought Jim to ProMedica Toledo Hospital, Toledo’s first Comprehensive Stroke Center. There, Dr. Zaidi performed an aspiration thrombectomy, an interventional procedure where a catheter is used to physically remove the stroke-causing blood clot.
After two or three hours, Jim was out of surgery. And by the next day, he was back to talking and feeling pretty normal. After two days in the hospital, he went home. Jim says, “Dr. Zaidi and the staff at Toledo Hospital did an excellent job. They took impeccable concern and interest for my well-being.”
Jim couldn’t be more thankful for the care he received. While he didn’t require any speech or physical rehab, he looked to his art as his therapy. He gradually began painting and writing again.
According to the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, the chance of suffering a stroke nearly doubles every 10 years after age 55, even in healthy individuals like Jim who carefully manage controllable risk factors such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or tobacco use.
In addition, Jim was diagnosed with atrial fibrillation (AFib), an abnormal heart rhythm condition which he never knew he had. AFib increases your chance of having a stroke by more than five times. It can cause blood to pool and form a blood clot in an artery leading to your brain, which then leads to a stroke. According to the American Heart Association, approximately 2.7 million Americans live with AFib.
Jim is currently on a blood-thinning medication to manage his AFib and reduce his risk for another stroke. He hopes to be a candidate for a permanent heart implant, which could help stop his need to continue taking blood thinners.
To learn more about Jim and view his art gallery, visit artandsurvival.org.