Stroke survivor says friend’s quick thinking saved his life

Chris McLachlin


Thursday was World Stroke Day, a day to raise awareness on stroke and what can be done to combat it.

A longtime coach, school administrator and television broadcaster knows all about surviving a stroke.

In January 2008, Chris McLachlin was watching a basketball game at a friend’s home in San Francisco when his body went haywire.

“All of a sudden, I just collapsed. I fell over on my side,” he said. “I was fully paralyzed on my right side, face, arms, legs just out.”

McLachlin was suffering a severe stroke. Thankfully, a friend recognized the symptoms and immediately called 911. Within 15 minutes, he was at a stroke-certified hospital.

McLachlin says a piece of plaque in one of his arteries somehow broke free and made its way to his brain.

“The plaque traveled up here and got stuck here right on top of my brain and that’s what shut everything down,” he said.

Doctors called it a random event. His friend’s quick action may have saved his life.

“When someone is having a stroke, every minute you’re losing about two million brain cells, so if you can imagine that 10 minutes would be 20 million cells that you’re losing,” explained Dr. Kazuma Nakagawa from Queen’s Medical Center.

The State Stroke Coalition Task Force is looking to improve Hawaii’s system of care so that patients are delivered to a stroke-ready hospital where they can be treated promptly and properly.

“In Hawaii, we’re lagging behind compared to the mainland in terms of stroke mortality,” Nakagawa said. “Stroke mortality used to be number three nationwide, but has dropped to number five, but it’s still number three in Hawaii.”

McLachlin says he doesn’t live in fear of having another stroke. He lives with a different purpose.

“Seven more years I’ve been given the gift of being with my kids, my wife, my grandchildren, so it’s been a really special time to be able to have my life extended this way,” he said. “I just feel so blessed that I’m actually here sitting, talking to you and every day I wake up and go, oh I get another day. It’s a gift.”

Chris McLachlin, left, and Jim Leahey (Photo provided by Chris McLachlin)
Chris McLachlin, left, and Jim Leahey (Photo provided by Chris McLachlin)

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