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As a volunteer girls’ basketball coach, Creighton “Mike” Miller likes to begin each new season with an inspirational story.

He talks about a man who has had many serious health complications in his life – heart surgery, E. coli, MRSA, gangrene, a stroke. Although this man has come close to death more than once, he always manages to pull through, thanks to the support of his loved ones and the doctors and nurses on his care team. As Mike tells the story, he talks about perseverance, second chances and how there are more important things in life than winning and losing. It’s advice Mike knows all too well, because the man in the story is him.

“You could say I’ve been through a lot … but I’m also very blessed,” Mike said.

Mike doesn’t look like someone who has spent the past several years in and out of the hospital for various health scares. The retired 64-year-old father of three is full of energy – three times a week, he drives from Lancaster to Granville to coach volleyball at Granville Christian Academy. He also is a girls’ basketball coach at Thomas Ewing Junior High and the head coach of the Berne Union High School volleyball team. He loves to spend time with his wife, Debbie, his grown daughters, Megan, Kristen and Katie and his six grandchildren.

Mike Miller coaching

Through all of his health struggles, Mike knows he wouldn’t be where he is today without the staff at Fairfield Medical Center and the care they provided during some of the most difficult trials of his life. “Fairfield Medical Center has been very good to me. The care I’ve received there has always been outstanding, and the nurses – they hold a special place in my heart,” Mike said.

One of those nurses, Kelsy Hintz, RN, BSN, of FMC’s Intensive Care Unit, was among the caregivers who saw Mike through one of his most challenging and recent health scares – a sudden stroke in December 2019. Kelsy personally knows Mike from the years he spent coaching her daughters in volleyball and basketball. “We don’t often get to see what happens to the patient after they leave us,” Kelsy said. “In Mike’s case, I’ve been able to see his recovery and it’s been truly amazing.”

Mike said the day before his stroke, he passed out at work, hitting his head hard on the marble floor. His colleague called 911 and Mike was brought to FMC for an evaluation. “They ran some tests, and everything looked good, but when the question came up of whether I should be discharged, the E.D. doctor surprised us when he told us no,” Mike said.

The attending physician that day was Dr. Jerry Oliaro, MD, FACEP, of US Acute Care Solutions, FMC’s emergency medicine group. Even though Mike’s test results showed no signs of stroke activity or anything unusual, Dr. Oliaro had noticed that something was off about the way Mike was talking and reacting to him. For that reason, he admitted Mike for the night.

The decision proved to be life-saving – at 6 a.m. the following morning, Mike suffered a stroke.

Kelsy said she remembers hearing the stroke alert overhead. When she passed by Mike’s room, she heard one of the nurses say his name. Immediately, she rushed into the room to see her friend.

“Mike knew me when I went in; he said ‘Hey, kiddo,’ like he always does,” Kelsy said. “But as the hour went on, he was speaking gibberish and had lost movement on one side.”

Mike was suffering from an ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage in an artery that supplies blood to the brain. The blockage reduces blood flow and oxygen to the brain, leading to damage or death of brain cells. As a Primary Stroke Center through the American Heart Association, FMC has a dedicated, stroke-focused program where patients like Mike can be diagnosed and medically stabilized before they are transferred to another facility. Time is a critical factor in stroke treatment; a clot- busting drug known as tPA must be given within 4.5-hours of the onset of symptoms if the patient is to have a good chance at making a full recovery.

As FMC’s stroke response team rushed to administer the tPA, Kelsy stepped aside to sit with Mike’s wife, Debbie, who had just arrived at the hospital. “I brought her food and just stayed with her. I knew that she was frightened,” Kelsy said.

Mike Miller family
Pictured: Mike and Debbie Miller pose for a photo with their family. Photo by Faith Elizabeth Photography.

Debbie said the compassion she received from Kelsy in that moment was just what she needed to remain calm and focused. “It was a comfort to have a familiar face, someone Mike knew, who was there with me the whole time,” she said.

Within one hour of suffering his stroke, the TPA had been administered and Mike was stable enough to be transported to The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Kelsy and FMC Police Officer Terry Swinehart, who also knew Mike personally, accompanied him to the helipad, where he was swiftly prepared for transport.

“As all of this was going on, it just didn’t seem real to me. I just couldn’t believe what was happening,” Mike said.

Mike remained stable during transport, but the TPA that had been administered at FMC was not fully dissolving the clot as it should. Upon arriving at Ohio State, Mike was whisked into the operating room so the clot could be surgically removed. He began to recover quickly and was discharged from Ohio State just seven days later. When he returned the following week for a check-up, the surgeon who had treated him was floored by the improvement he had made in such a short time frame.

“He asked, ‘are you Creighton Miller? Did you just walkin here’?” Mike said. “I told him, yes, and he said, “I wasn’t expecting that at all’.”

Mike said he credits much of his remarkable recovery to the quick and diligent care he received from the start at Fairfield Medical Center.

“Had FMC sent me home on the night before I had my stroke, I know my story could have ended much differently,” Mike said. “Had they not responded like they did when I had the stroke, I might not be here today. Kelsy has told me, ‘you’ll never know how bad it really was’.”

Kelsy said she is proud of how FMC’s team worked together to save Mike’s life, and buy him the time he needed to get to OSU for his surgery.

“I remember the teamwork when we were all in there – the helicopter crew, the doctors, the pharmacist,” Kelsy said. “He would not have had the results he had without that fast action. We saved his life that day.”

To learn more, about the stroke response team at Fairfield Medical Center, click here.

Fairfield Medical Center is proud to be recognized by the American Heart Association/ American Stroke Association for our commitment to delivering superior stroke care.

For the third year in a row, FMC has received the Associations’ Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. This award recognizes a hospital’s commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines that are focused on the latest scientific evidence. FMC additionally received the Associations’ Target: StrokeSM Honor Roll award, which recognizes hospitals that meet quality measures developed to reduce the time between the patient’s arrival at the hospital and their treatment with the tPA.

Do you know the warning signs of a stroke? F.A.S.T is an acronym to help you remember. Together, we can save lives through quick action and awareness.

FAST signs of Stroke