Dr. Tam: My stroke was a lesson of timely care and treatment

May 8, 2024

On March 8, I suffered a stroke.

I woke up that Friday morning and felt tired. But I’m always tired. And then, at my office at Beebe Healthcare in Lewes, I found myself stumbling over some words when talking.

“Wow,” I thought to myself, “I am so glad it’s the weekend.” And then I couldn’t sign my name on documents and letters (and I sign a lot of stuff). But “maybe I slept funny on my arm.” But when I stumbled out of my office to go to a meeting, my assistants Becky and Hollie both looked at me and said, “You need to go the ER.”

So, I walked around the corner and checked in at the Emergency Department and told them I thought I was having a stroke. Many of you know that I am actually a neurologist. But I was still in some level of denial. After all, I take care of myself – eat right, exercise and try to manage my health.

The Beebe ER team swung into action. Immediately, the stroke protocol was implemented, and I was taken straight in to get a CT scan with angiography. Then to a room where I was examined by our team of physicians and nurses while they inserted IV lines and drew blood for tests. And within minutes, I was face-to-face with a board-certified neurologist trained in acute (emergent) stroke management using our Jefferson Expert Teleconsulting system – she could review my CT in real time, see my labs and talk to me about my symptoms. 

She was able to accurately and quickly diagnose that I was indeed suffering from a stroke and recommended a treatment course immediately. And because there were some concerning findings on the CT scan that could have required neurovascular treatment, a decision was made to fly me to Jefferson for further care.

I did not need further treatment and stayed for observation up at Jefferson Health for several more days. I recovered all functions rapidly and was discharged with no restrictions other than to stay home and rest for several weeks. I have been back at work for over a month with no sequelae. I told my friend (a former Navy SEAL physician) that I dodged a bullet; his response, “Dude, you dodged a mortar shell.” 

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Dialing 911 or seeking care immediately is so vital. I hope to write and speak more about my experiences and raise awareness about stroke over the next few weeks. It’s still hard to talk about it sometimes. And as I write this today and hear the sounds of a medical helicopter lifting off our helipad, I still catch my breath. 

But I want to share with my friends, families and neighbors that I am doing well. And what is amazing to me is that when I arrived at Beebe in 2020 as the new CEO, we implemented fully this JET neuroscience stroke robot to ensure we had the fastest response time to people suffering an acute stroke. Every minute your brain is deprived of blood flow due to a stroke, it damages over 2 million brain cells.

The quick actions of the Beebe ER team in consultation with Jefferson neurologists prevented and possibly reversed brain damage and saved my life. I would never have expected the programs we worked so hard to implement would be the same to personally save me. 

Thank you to every member of the Beebe team for working together to save my life. I am so proud to be part of this organization and community. And I will continue to work hard to continue our growth to serve this growing community. I ask everyone to recognize the tremendous jewel we have here in our community that is Beebe Healthcare, a local nonprofit independent community health system that has served the people of Sussex County for over a century. Let’s work together to keep us strong and vibrant.

David A. Tam, MD, MBA, CPHE, FACHE, is the president & CEO of Beebe Healthcare.
  • Cape Gazette commentaries are written by readers whose occupations, education, community positions or demonstrated focus in particular areas offer an opportunity to expand our readership's understanding or awareness of issues of interest.

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