John Kessler's Story

JohnKesslerLike many others, John and Diane Kessler celebrate all sorts of milestones and anniversaries. They celebrate their wedding anniversary, the birthdays of their children and grandchildren, and so on. They also celebrate one other anniversary that most couples don’t — the anniversary of John Kessler’s stroke.

Twenty years ago, John Kessler was the first stroke patient treated at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare (TMH) with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) — to date, still the only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic strokes. And John and Diane remember it like it  was yesterday.

“I was getting ready for work one day. I was in the shower, and I felt something strange happening in my head,” John said.

Diane, John’s wife, who at the time was a nurse at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, happened to catch a glance of John and immediately knew he was having a stroke.

“I told him to lay down and immediately called 9-1-1,” said Diane Kessler. “When we arrived at the hospital, John was still somewhat coherent but we knew time was important. The fact that I hadn’t left for work yet and was able to see him and recognize he was having a stroke — that was something. Everything just aligned that day for us.”

At the time of John’s event, there were no treatments for strokes other than tPA — which had just been introduced months beforehand, and hadn’t been used on anyone in Tallahassee yet. Diane recalls the doctors discussing how John might be the first candidate. While the thought of being the first patient in the area to try this drug was a bit overwhelming, Diane and John knew it was their best option.

“There was no real alternative other than tPA. The only other alternative was to have him ride out the stroke and assess the damage afterwards,” said Diane. “The benefits outweighed the risk.”

John and Diane moved forward with having the doctors administer the tPA treatment, a clot-busting drug that is administered through IV. While John doesn’t remember much of what happened immediately after, Diane does – including the relief she felt when she realized John was going to make a great recovery. After a few days in the hospital, followed by many weeks of rehabilitation and recovery, John was able to go back in work in just under two months.

“Because of his successful recovery, he was able to fully participate in many life milestones. Our daughter and son’s high school and college graduations, walking our daughter down the aisle, and standing as our son’s best man,” said Diane.

JohnKesslerFamilyFor John, he knows that each day is a gift and is thankful for the quick actions that his wife and Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare were able to  take 20  years ago.

“We have been there for the birth of our three grandsons, and I’ve been able to fulfill a lifelong dream of section hiking the Appalachian Trail,” said John. “We did a family hike to Max Patch, a part of the trail in Pisgah National Forest, in celebration of  my 20th anniversary. I just thank God every day that I’m  still alive.”

As John and Diane have continued to cross several milestones throughout the last 20 years, so has Tallahassee Memorial — continuing to stay on the forefront of cutting edge technology and boasting a variety of revolutionary treatments for stroke. In addition to tPA, TMH also offers endovascular neurosurgery, including mechanical thrombectomy — a minimally invasive neuroendovascular procedure that removes a blood clot in a large vessel.

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