Learning to listen: Stroke survivor speaks about health

by Hannah K. Robison

Listening to our bodies can be a difficult lesson to learn, but Ticia Covington has accepted the importance of being in tune with what her body is telling her.

In August 2010, at the age of 25, Ticia began her morning as usual, preparing for teaching and getting her family ready for the day.

Attempting to put her contacts in, then requesting her glasses, she realized her vision was out of focus and she felt tingling in her arms and legs. Ticia’s husband, Reagan, was bringing her glasses to her when he found she had fallen into the doorframe. He sat her upright and knew something was out of order as her speech was slurred, her right side was unable to move and her face was drooping.

Recognizing these symptoms, Reagan immediately rushed Ticia to the ER at Unity Health. Ticia explained she began to realize the intensity of the situation as she was wheeled in, bypassed triage and was admitted to a room upon their entrance. Unaware of how serious her circumstances were, Ticia said her greatest concern was getting back to school. “The scariest moment for me, and I know this sounds really small, was when I found out that I wasn’t going to make it back for half a day,” Ticia said. “Because this was my first year teaching, I kept telling my mom and my husband to call my principal and let him know I just needed half a day.” Her family quickly informed her she would not be able to make it back to school by lunchtime.

Ticia was diagnosed with an acute stroke to the left hemisphere. Through the Arkansas SAVES program, Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support, Ticia was viewed through video communication by Margaret Tremwel, M.D., at Sparks Regional Health System in Fort Smith. After the analysis, assessments revealed the need to administer the blood thinner tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Reversing the effects of a stroke, this medication was given within the hour, halting the life-altering effects of the episode. She was the first patient to receive the medication at Unity Health, as the hospital had adopted the program earlier that year.

When Reagan received the news that his wife was to be transported by helicopter to University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Ticia remembered him “falling apart” at the severity of the situation. “That rocked my world for an instant, but I have to say I was very childlike and extremely excited about riding in a helicopter,” Ticia said in an attempt to lift his spirits with her enthusiasm to fly.

The source of Ticia’s stroke was discovered to have been the oral contraceptive she was using for birth control.

Her mission is to share with others the importance of health, knowing your body and being aware of the signs that something may be wrong. “I just hope that people will be in tune with their bodies and listen,” Ticia said. “Especially when we’re young, we like to brush off something. Fortunately for me, I had every stroke symptom possible. If something doesn’t feel right, have it checked out because time is of the essence.”

Not only was Ticia’s physical being shaken by the stroke, but she also experienced a resurgence in her spiritual life. Always living in fear of what could happen, Ticia realized that, through this event, God brought her through the stroke and back to full health. “I think God used the people at Unity Health and put me in the right place at the right time because that was what I needed,” she said. “He used those people and the medicine to heal me, and for that I am forever grateful to God and want to give Him all the glory.”

In the years since her stroke, Ticia and Reagan have added another child to their number and are now a family of five. Their daughters, Elliette and Sawyer, and son, Rooke, are able to lead a life with their parents in Hickory Plains, where they enjoy a home complete with a 20-acre farm and their furry friends, Daisy, Maggie and Hoss. Their favorite pastimes include riding through the fields on their Ranger, swinging in the front yard, cooking meals, restoring furniture and building farmhouse tables.  

“I realized that in life, anything and anybody is fair game. You never know from day to day what may happen and how your life may change,” Ticia said. “I am just so grateful for the opportunity to be here and raise my children, to play with them and talk to them. My life could have changed so drastically, and because of the grace of God, it didn’t and I am getting to live life to the fullest.”