On the sunny Sunday afternoon of June 25, 2017, the Kansas City Royals lost to the Toronto Blue Jays. But despite seeing her beloved baseball team defeated, Heather Holiman, 43, was all smiles. It was her first visit to Kauffman Stadium since a hemorrhagic stroke nearly took her life in early April.
Heather had watched the Royals play that April afternoon, too, though on television in her home near St. Joseph, Missouri. After the game, Heather's 19-year-old daughter, Erika, doing homework at the kitchen table, observed concerning behavior in her mother.
"She was at our computer for a minute, and then she threw down her phone," Erika recalls. "I thought that was strange and asked her if she was all right. She said, 'I feel like I'm going to throw up,' and headed toward her room. On her way in, she bumped into the door frame. She wasn't walking right. She said, 'I need medicine,' and then her words became very jumbled."
Recognizing that this was different from the migraine headaches that often plagued Heather, Erika ran for her father, Danny. The two decided to take Heather to the local hospital, but couldn't get her up from bed. Erika called a neighbor, an EMT who lived just a few houses away and arrived by ambulance in moments.
Instructed by the EMT to have Heather squeeze both her hands, Erika felt no pressure from her mom's right hand. She feared a stroke.
"It was a classic sign," says Erika.
"My whole side felt heavy," Heather adds. "My mouth and body just went bad on me. In just a few minutes, I was out."
The EMT took Heather by ambulance to the local hospital, where Heather had previously spent 18 years working in health information systems. There, physicians recommended immediate transfer to The University of Kansas Health System's Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center.