Doctor's actions save his own life

Certified stroke centers changing lives in S.A.

SAN ANTONIO – As an emergency room doctor, Ronald Stewart knew the signs.

"I had a stroke four days before Christmas last year. I couldn't speak, words wouldn't come out - even though I could think of what the words were, I couldn't move my right side," said Stewart.

Within an hour of the symptoms, Stewart was at University Hospital receiving state of the art stroke care, a system he helped set up with the help of Suzanne Hildebrand and her husband, Ray.

"I feel very grateful, that's how I feel," said Stewart.

Stewart and the Hildebrands worked to bring San Antonio certified stroke centers.

Four years ago, when Ray Hildebrand had a massive stroke, the city didn't have any stroke centers. Today, there are multiple centers - nearly every San Antonio hospital has one.

Shortly after he suffered his stroke, Ray Hildebrand was asked if he felt the system let him down.

"I feel the system let everyone, everyone's been let down," said Hildebrand.

Ray Hildebrand didn't live long enough to see how his stroke would shock a city into action, but it did. When Ray had his stroke, he waited seven and a half hours and ended up being helicoptered to Austin to get treatment.

"Even though his speech was haltered and this was a man who was always in control and always had a story, he allowed you to film him in his debilitated state because he believed it was critical and crucial for the citizens of San Antonio to have better stroke care," said Suzanne Hildebrand.

Stewart and the Hildebrands became allies in the fight for better stroke care in 2010. Ray Hildebrand passed away, a year and a half before Stewart had his stroke.

"Because Dr. Stewart has become like family to me, and his family, so it became personal to me again, and I could see personally, right then and there the benefits, and it was very precious to me, as it would have been to Ray," said Hildebrand.

Suzanne admits she was angry about what happened to her husband and asked why he had to be a "sacrificial lamb," before things happened. Stewart's stroke changed that.

"When Dr. Stewart became ill, and it helped him, I looked at it from a totally different perspective," said Hildebrand.

"It is Ray Hildebrand's legacy, my care, tied to each other in that sense, and not just me, it's the hundreds or thousands of patients in South Texas whose care are improved.," said Stewart.

For a list of recent stories Steve Spriester has done, click here.

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