RICHMOND, Va. -- The President of HCA Virginia was just 46 years old when he found himself being treated as a patient in one of his own hospitals. Tim McManus had suffered a stroke.
Five years later, McManus aims to bring awareness to the growing number of people experiencing a stroke at a young age.
"It was a wake-up call," McManus, President of HCA Virginia, said.
McManus is no stranger to the world of healthcare. The father and husband oversees 19 hospitals across four different states.
"I was the CEO of the hospital at the time. I was the CEO of Chippenham and Johnston Willis hospitals," McManus said.
But in 2016, McManus went from running those hospitals to being treated in one.
"I woke up at 4 in the morning. My wife was there and I was sort of flailing in bed and I was paralyzed on half of my body unable to speak," McManus said.
He said his wife sprung into action.
An ambulance rushed him to Johnston Willis Hospital where he was treated for a stroke.
"Having doctors be able to get into that clot within 30 minutes and pull that clot out made the difference for my recovery," McManus said.
That was five years ago, and it also just happened to be on National Stroke Awareness Day.
Now, McManus aims to do just that -- bring awareness.
"Thankfully I was able to get back to running hospitals, but it made me a different leader," McManus said. "In our HCA hospitals in Virginia here in Richmond, we saw over 1,000 patients with a stroke just this year. Those are staggering numbers."
According to the American Heart Association, more people are having strokes at a younger age, with a 40% increase in rates and hospitalizations among adults under 50 in the last several decades.
Dr. Jake O'Shea, Chief Medical Officer for HCA Virginia, said that could be, in part, due to the fact that doctors were getting better at identifying those strokes.
"And it could just be the change in stress in today’s world," said O'Shea.
He said people were more at risk for a stroke if they had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and if they smoked or were obese.
According to O'Shea, people can reduce their chances of having a stroke by exercising, eating well, seeing their doctor to have their blood pressure checked, and taking their medicines regularly.
He also said that when someone is having a stroke -- minutes matter.
"For approximately every minute people go without having their stroke treated about 2 million brain cells die," O'Shea said.
The longer someone goes untreated, the more difficult it is for doctors to treat the patient effectively.
"Early on in the course of a stroke, we can treat people with a clot-busting medicine called a thrombolytic that can minimize the effects of the stroke and in some cases reverse it completely. Some other patients may be a candidate to actually have the doctor go in and retrieve the clot from inside their brain and ease their symptoms, but there's a timeline after which you can't do that anymore. So earlier is much better," O'Shea said.
For McManus, there were no noticeable warning signs or symptoms right beforehand.
"Lots of people have comorbidities or other sicknesses that impact their healthcare and they often think about those sicknesses as just being -- in my case -- as being a cardiac issue that I had. I didn’t think of it as a stroke issue," said McManus.
Now, he credits his wife's quick actions and his team at Johnston Willis with saving his life.
"We feel invincible when we’re young. And we’re clearly not. We have the ability now to live longer than ever if we take care of ourselves and we surround ourselves with people who are aware of how we’re doing," said McManus.
McManus recommended anyone at risk for a stroke have a plan.
"When you're traveling have a plan about who you're letting know where you are and have people checking in on you. You just don't know what could happen next," he said.