Recovering from Stroke


It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in October 2013 and Ron O’Neal had promised a friend he would help hang pictures at her house. “I was driving down the freeway and was about a mile from her house when all of a sudden my eyes blurred," O'Neal says. "By the time I arrived, I had trouble walking. We knew immediately there was something wrong and called 9-1-1.”

O'Neal was rushed to the emergency room at Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, where the team in the hospital's Advanced Primary Stroke Center took over. A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan revealed that Ron had had a stroke. He was given tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, an FDA-approved treatment for ischemic strokes. An ischemic stroke is one that occurs as a result of an obstruction within a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain. When it is given within a few hours of a stroke, tPA usually helps dissolve the blood clot and can help improve the chances of a more complete recovery.

“In the ER, things happened quickly and before I knew it I was in the intensive care unit," O'Neal explains. "The staff treated me great. After a few days, I was ready to start my rehabilitation."

To start the next step of his recovery, O'Neal was transferred to Valley Hospital Medical Center for intensive physical therapy and rehabilitation and started on the Friday after he had a stroke. “I was in a wheelchair. I rolled around a bit to check it out. My vision was still a little blurred, but the unit looked nice,” he says.

The next day, he had an extensive evaluation and assessment so that the therapists could develop an individualized treatment program. “On the third day, the therapists started putting me through the paces. What they did for me was amazing and fantastic,” he says. “Rehabilitation is the kind of thing you really don’t think about until you need it. I needed it and Valley Hospital was there for me.” Valley Hospital is located less than two miles from The Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino, where O'Neal works as vice president of entertainment, a position he has held for 38 years.

O'Neal says he was lucky that he had the emergency room treatment quickly because he had minimal lasting effects from his stroke. “A lot of people cannot talk, cannot sit and cannot even lift a fork to feed themselves. I was more independent than some of the other patients," he explains. "I had trouble walking and my eyesight was blurry, but I could talk and I could get around in my wheelchair so I became a cheerleader for the other patients. I also could get visitors, and I had a lot because work was so close. The day I got to Valley Hospital there were 40 coworkers and friends in the lobby to see me.”

Ron continued his therapy for three weeks, each day undergoing physical therapy to help him relearn to walk, occupational therapy to rebuild the strength in his arms and cognitive therapy to help improve his eyesight and his speech.

“I am lucky to live in Las Vegas and to have a great career in entertainment. I have lots of stories and lots of friends in the entertainment and restaurant business and many of them came to visit me. I am even luckier to live in a city where we have an outstanding system of hospitals in The Valley Health System.

The neurological staff was tremendous when I was having my stroke and I cannot say enough about the therapy team at Valley Hospital. I always knew I was in the best hands. Today I am back to work, walking normally and I have my vision back,” he said, “and it’s all thanks to The Valley Health System.”

"I am living proof that with the right treatment and intensive rehabilitation like I got at Valley Hospital, you can regain your life.”

Learn more about the Primary Stroke Center at Valley Hospital