Dennis’ story: Surviving a stroke
Wednesday, May 3, 2017
“I don’t have time for this,” Dennis Panneck thought when he started having trouble seeing out of his left eye.
It was holiday season, an important time for Let Me Be Frank Productions, where Dennis has spent the last 10 years as band director.
So, he decided to schedule an appointment with his eye doctor.
“I went to the eye doctor, who said I should make an appointment with my primary care physician because he couldn’t do anything for me, and that’s how I ended up at Aurora BayCare Medical Center,” Dennis says.
It was early December, two weeks after Dennis noticed a problem with his eye, when he went to his primary care appointment.
“I didn’t think anything was wrong and then I got to the hospital and I couldn’t talk,” he says. “I just remember a wheelchair and being pushed down a hallway.”
He woke up a day and a half later in intensive care.
He’d had a stroke.
“The first thing that came to mind was ‘Where am I?’,” Dennis says.
“Dennis had a type of stroke that can be very debilitating because it affects his speech and the right side of his body,” says Dr. Gerald W. Eckardt of BayCare Clinic Neurological Surgeons.
Dennis had two problems. He had stenosis, or narrowing of the artery, on the left side of his neck, decreasing the amount of blood flow to his brain. He also had a small clot that had traveled up into the small blood vessels in his brain.
“It was a complex treatment,” Dr. Eckardt says. “Fortunately Dennis was in the right place at the right time, I’m very happy with the results.”
“Everything stroke is dependent on time,” he says. “If we can limit the number of patients that fall asleep and think things will be better in the morning and educate folks, outcomes will be significantly better.”
Recovery from a stroke can be slow and unpredictable.
“Typically recovery lasts weeks, if not months, after a stroke,” Dr. Eckardt says. “Once our job is done it becomes a job of different therapists and education to prevent another stroke from happening down the road.”
Dennis’ love of playing the guitar was incorporated into his rehabilitation.
“The therapists said it would be a good thing for me to do so I had a friend of mine bring a guitar to the hospital,” Dennis says. “I could play right away, it was a little slower than usual but after time it finally came back.”
Three weeks after Dennis was out of the hospital, he resumed rehearsals at Let Me Be Frank Productions. He refers to the cast as his “Frank Family”.
“They were very supportive and pushed me to get back into it,” he said. “It was a little scary because I wasn’t really sure I could, but it all worked out.”
Today, Dennis is back to teaching students and directing.
“I still get tired easily, but that’s getting better and better,” he says. “I don’t really worry about things as much anymore though and this showed me how much I like teaching.”
Dennis has one more goal, one that involves Dr. Eckardt. “I’m going to get him to see a Frank’s show,” he says.
Dr. Gerald W. Eckardt sees patients at Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay. For information, call 888-376-3876 or request an appointment online.