A Stroke Patient’s Story of Strength and Recovery
During his 22 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, Angel Sambrano had his share of stress. To manage the pressure, he was an avid jogger. He was on his daily run in Claremont several years ago when he suddenly felt dizzy. He knew something was wrong, but before he could make it to the curb to sit down, he collapsed in the street.
“There was no pain, but I couldn’t move and I couldn’t say anything,” Angel recalls. “People who came to help were asking my name and if I was okay, but I was paralyzed and couldn’t talk.”
One bystander called 9-1-1 and an ambulance rushed Angel to Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center (PVHMC). Caregivers in the Emergency Department immediately diagnosed stroke and administered the clot-busting medication tPA (tissue plasminogen activator). The rapid intervention saved Angel’s life.
After more medical treatments and a lengthy rehabilitation, Angel recovered physically and regained much of his speech. But he wasn’t able to continue working and retired from the LAPD.
One of his rehabilitation specialists referred Angel to PVHMC’s New Beginnings support group for stroke survivors and caregivers. New Beginnings is designed to enhance the quality of life and independence of those affected by stroke through self-help education, supportive discussions and community resources.
Many hospitals in the area refer patients to the program, one of the few in the region. Participants talk about their experiences, share concerns and learn from each other and their facilitators.
At his first support group meeting, Angel came face to face with one of the PVHMC caregivers who had saved his life that day in the Emergency Department.
“It had been maybe three years since I’d first been at Pomona Valley Hospital, but she recognized me right away and said ‘Angel, you can talk!’” Angel said. “It got emotional and we were crying, because she was the one who saved me.”
Angel, now 51, still has some difficulty speaking large words and when trying to express complex thoughts. The support group has helped him feel more comfortable talking about his stroke experience, which he does to help others.
“I know what they’re going through,” Angel said. “Sometimes people who have a stroke can go back to work but for a lot of people, like me, you can’t go back to your job. Your life has changed. All you can do is your best to move forward with what God gave you and do something else in life.”
Angel, who now lives in Irvine with his two adult daughters, periodically drives to Claremont to visit his parents and attends the New Beginnings support group when he can. He swims several days a week for exercise and improves his speech daily by talking to everyone he meets. He feels his life is blessed.
“All the stress I felt before my stroke is gone,” he said. “I’m peaceful. I decided I wasn’t going to be bitter or depressed. Everything is good. And I’ll never forget the people at Pomona Valley Hospital. For the doctors and nurses there it’s not a job, it’s more than that. They gave me unconditional acceptance. I was blessed by all the people at the Hospital.”