On Feb. 24, 2020, Derrick Tennant was loving life. The stand-up comedian and motivational speaker had a great gig at Atlantis, a premier hotel and casino in the Bahamas. On a beautiful Monday, he soaked up the sun and surveyed the oceanside scenery without a care in the world.
Then came the cell phone text message that jarred his paradise: “Julie had a stroke.”
Hurriedly collecting his beach belongings and embarking on what would become an 18-hour odyssey to return to Syracuse, Derrick’s purpose became singular: to be at his younger sister’s bedside at Crouse.
Will Julie Still be Julie?
The Tennants have always been close, but Derrick and Julie share a special bond. As he traveled back to Central New York, Derrick’s mind raced with questions: Would Julie be able to walk? Talk? He wondered, would she be able to tell jokes, and share the stage with him during presentations meant to inspire and educate people about what living with Down’s syndrome is really like?
Once home and at the hospital, Derrick listened intently as caregivers described her condition. “Julie had a right middle cerebral artery ischemic stroke,” said Jameson Crumb, MSBMS, PA-C, Clinical Director of the Crouse Neuroscience Institute and Comprehensive Stroke Program. “She was seen immediately and given tPA within 28 minutes of her arrival in the Crouse ER.”
Quick action on the part of Julie’s mother and the Crouse stroke team saved her from living a life of disability. “I recognized that Julie might be having a stroke, and all I could think of was the phrase, ‘Take me to Crouse’,” recalls Barbara Tennant.
Fortunately for Julie, Crouse is a Comprehensive Stroke Center, where stroke patients receive door-to-treatment times that are consistently among the fastest in the region. She spent just two days in the hospital, recuperated at home, and over several months, fully regained her speech and motor functions.
Derrick feels two overriding emotions related to his sister’s ordeal: first, relief, as he saw that Julie was still Julie: smiling, cracking jokes, and making fun of him as she has for years; secondly, immense gratitude for how the Crouse stroke team saved her life.
Derrick has had his own share of medical issues, including one that left his left side partially paralyzed. Today, the brother-sister duo is back doing what they have been doing together for years: inspiring and motivating others, and spreading what they call “The Love Chromosome.”
Through their website, YouTube channel and Facebook account, where they can be seen live at 3:21 p.m. ET daily, Derrick and Julie spread messages of hope, positivity and humor. They also dispel misconceptions about Down’s syndrome, with Julie proving that she lives life fully — with love.
About Crouse Health Comprehensive Stroke Center
The Crouse team uses tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), a clot-dissolving that was the first treatment for acute ischemic stroke to receive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval. The drug is given to patients through an IV in the arm, and it works by dissolving blood clots that block blood flow to the brain. When administered quickly after stroke onset (within three hours, as approved by the FDA), tPA helps to restore blood flow to brain regions affected by a stroke, thereby limiting the risk of damage and functional impairment.
Crouse is also home to two hybrid operating rooms that merge the latest imaging technology of a radiology suite with the amenities of a traditional operating room. The availability of imaging equipment means physicians can view a surgical area on high-definition monitors to perform advanced, image-guided vascular and neurosurgical procedures. Our state-of-the-art OR setting allows surgeons to safely transition from a minimally invasive to an open procedure without moving the patient, allowing surgeons to respond more effectively to intricate cases.
Cheryl Abrams earned her M.S. in Communications Management from Syracuse University's Newhouse School and is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, NY.