Healthwatch: Surviving a stroke with “Amazing Grace”

Health Watch

Marylee Radtke loves peaceful walks outdoors  with her husband, Gary, near the Peshtigo home they’ve shared for nearly 60 years. 

A simple stroll down the lane, however, was out of the question just over a year ago. That’s when Radtke woke in the middle of the night to find she couldn’t even manage a walk to the restroom on her own. 

“I was sitting and when I got up to leave I went to my knees,” Radtke recalled.

Radtke didn’t know it at the time, but she was having a stroke.

“Time is the most important thing, getting to the hospital,” said Megan Ristow, referring to having a stroke.  Ristow is a senior speech-language pathologist with Aurora BayCare Medical Center.

Something Radtke’s husband knew instinctively.

“He said, ‘We’d better go to the hospital.’,” Radtke explained.

The Radtkes rushed to the nearest hospital in Marinette, where her doctor immediately recognized the symptoms.

“He came back and said, ‘We’re going to send you to Green Bay. You’re having a stroke,’” Radtke remembered. 

Aurora BayCare Medical Center Interventional Neurologist, Dr. Ziad Darkhabani, was ready and waiting when the Radtkes arrived.  After a thorough evaluation, he performed a thrombectomy.

“He went into the left side of my brain and took the clot out,” said Radtke.

The surgery was a success, but when Radtke woke up, she was unable to speak; which makes what Dr. Darkhabani asked her to do next, seem like a pretty unusual request. He asked her to sing.

“I vaguely remember singing,” Radtke recalled.

Still unable to talk, Radtke started singing the hymn, Amazing Grace, without a  problem.

Megan Ristow, senior speech-language pathologist with Aurora BayCare said that phenomenon has a name. 

“Melodic Intonation Therapy,” Ristow explained.  “Sometimes, even when a person can’t talk at all, can’t say their name, they retain the ability to sing.”

Ristow explained why.

“That’s because language is primarily a left brain function, but singing and music are typically right brain functions,” Ristow said.

Over the next few months, Radkte worked intensively with Aurora BayCare’s speech therapy team.

“Speech came a couple times a week for several months,” Radtke said. “They were so great. They were really nice.”

Building on what she had, to achieve what she wanted.

“If you’re able to sing, we kind of gradually transition it into normal, functional speech through therapy,” described Ristow.

Until Radtke, once again, found her voice…

“…and I have,” Radtke said excitedly. “You can tell by talking to me.”

…and started feeling like herself again.

“I’m a talker. I talk all the time. My husband says that’s my worst thing,” Radtke chuckled. “I talk all the time.”

Her husband said, now, he can’t get enough of her talking.

Radtke credits her remarkable recovery to several things.  The care she received at Aurora BayCare’s Comprehensive Stroke Center is at the top of her list.

“The people at the hospital were great to me too,” she said. “They were wonderful.”

Plus, the support of family and friends.

“That support, that’s very important.” Radtke said.

Her own determination…

“I didn’t want to quit,” explained Radtke.

…and above all, that amazing grace.

Aurora BayCare is a Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, meaning they’re able to treat the most complex stroke cases.

To learn more, visit urorabaycare.com or use their LiveWell app. Call: 1-866-938-0035 or email: healthwatch@aurorabaycare.com

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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