MARSHALL — A natural born journalist, Charlotte Staton, of Sedalia, has created more than 200 documentaries highlighting the lives of others, and now she has one more story to tell — hers, a story of hope.
Staton has survived two strokes in four months and she wants to bring inspiration to others who have faced the same confusion and fear. She is a vibrant and determined woman, who was not only a TV producer for Access Television in Salina, Kan., but also an EMT for the Maries-Osage Counties Ambulance District. She hasn’t lost her tenacity for living, although her eyesight and balance are compromised, she has worked her way back from a debilitating brain injury and is now walking on her own again and applying her own make-up.
Staton’s first stroke happened Dec. 12, 2014, and the second occurred April 2. Her first stroke affected the right side of the brain, creating slurred speech. She was sent by helicopter to the University of Missouri-Columbia and eventually spent 19 days at Four Seasons Living Center in Sedalia, where she underwent physical therapy.
When the second stroke occurred, she was taken to MU once again. This time she lost her peripheral vision.
Staton said she wants others to know time is of the essence when someone has a stroke.
“Seek help as soon as possible,” she said.
From the onset of symptoms, a person has a three-hour window to receive medication that will help burst blood clots and help restore blood flow in the brain.
Staton was eventually sent to The Living Center in Marshall for weeks of rehabilitation.
Fitzgibbon Hospital Rehabilitation Center Director Sarah Vaillancourt said symptoms of stroke include slurred speech and loss of function of your hands.
“I’ve had people tell me that they went to use the remote to change a channel and they couldn’t even move,” she added.
Other symptoms are numbness and weakness of face, arms, or legs especially on one side, confusion, trouble seeing with one or both eyes, trouble with dizziness and walking, loss of balance, sudden extreme headache and trouble speaking or understanding.
Staton said she had no pain during her strokes, although she did have a headache periodically for about a week prior.
“I was trying to (walk) to the restroom at home and my left foot wouldn’t go forward; it wouldn’t go where it was supposed to go,” she added.
She walked up to her husband who noticed one side of her mouth was drooping.
“I called the ambulance who came out and said you are having a stroke, and you are having it now,” Staton said. “They gave me a shot.”
Through both strokes, her husband, Don Staton, has been one of her biggest allies, along with a team from The Living Center, who were there to help with her recovery.
Last week she went back to The Living Center to visit and give hugs to those who helped her with her last recovery. They were amazed at her progress.
“When Charlotte came here she had some balance deficits, and she had a lot of visual deficits,” Kathleen Howe, Fitzgibbon Rehabilitation Center certified occupational therapy assistant, said. “She had what’s actually called a left visual field cut.”
The Living Center Administrator Theresia Metz said that when Staton arrived she knew she would be facing a fierce uphill battle health-wise.
“That’s why Charlotte wants to tell her story … and that’s why her story is so important for hope,” she added.
Howe added that Staton had problems staying upright and Katie Smith-Garst, the rehab center’s physical therapy assistant, noted Staton also had a condition known as “left-side neglect,” which caused her to completely ignore the left side of her body.
“It wasn’t that she couldn’t use it, but she would forget that it was there,” Howe said.
“She had learn to reuse her left side appropriately,” Smith-Garst added. “She had to relearn space and time.”
After the second stroke, when Staton would stand up, she would lean to the left. She had to relearn how to stand up straight, and she found the vision she lost was due to a problem in her brain from the stroke. It didn’t originate in the eye itself.
“It’s the left half of each eye,” Howe explained.
Therapy has helped her brain relearn through repetition and helped her overcome many of the obstacles she has faced.
“A lot of it has to do with how the way the brain will heal itself,” Howe said. “It actually heals and will rewire itself and make new connections, but it only does that if you have repetition. I would have to tell her, ‘I know all this stuff seems boring and you’re are doing the same thing over and over again.’”
Staton said therapy was “boring” but she knew it was something she needed to recover.
“I would walk into the doors, I’ve done it several times even since I’ve been home,” Staton said.
” … That’s where therapy comes in,” Vaillancourt noted. “Therapy helps a person progress their skills. So, even though it’s very repetitive they put that patient through new situations and really test them on ‘can they do this at home.’ They also work on training the family and caregivers.”
When Staton arrived at the center she spent several weeks working to get better.
“She worked really, really hard,” Smith-Garst said. “She was here for around three weeks.”
The women said they knew Staton was ready to go home because of her progress and because her husband was there to help with her care. The Statons had arranged to have additional in-home assistance.
“It’s a cooperative effort,” Smith-Garst said.
Both therapists agreed that since they had last seen Staton she had improved immensely.
“She has done a phenomenal job,” Smith-Garst said. “Her visual deficit has gotten better … she has just really made leaps and bounds.”
“She’s done a lot since she’s been home,” Don Staton added. “She’ll go out on the patio by herself, she knows how to do it.”
“It doesn’t surprise me that she wants to tell the story,” Metz added. “Because she’s been telling stories her whole life to benefit and to better others. Now what’s she’s doing, she wants to do that at least one more time. Even if it’s subjecting herself to telling her story, which is painful, it’s a painful challenge.
“You’re a hero to able to be so courageous to tell this story,” Metz said while looking at Staton. “I’m happy you’re able to do this again in your life.”
“Remember, remember it’s not over,” Staton wrote recently in a note to other stroke survivors. “God is still in charge and He loves you.”