Editor’s note: Many people go about doing good deeds in their families, neighborhoods, organizations and church congregations. “Utah Valley’s Everyday Heroes” celebrates these unsung community members and brings to light their quiet contributions.

Payson resident Ben Gowan was in bed watching “Avengers: Endgame” on a Saturday night in March 2019 when his speech became slurred and the movie stopped making sense. He rolled over and looked at his son, who said: “Dad, I think you’re having a stroke.”

Gowan’s family called an ambulance that rushed the 45-year-old man to Mountain View Hospital in Payson where doctors confirmed he had suffered an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain.

“Especially on my right side, I couldn’t use my arm, I couldn’t use my hand, I couldn’t walk,” remembers Gowan. “I couldn’t really talk right, I was saying gibberish. I knew what I wanted to say, but odd words would just come out of my mouth.”

Gowan recovered from the stroke after a quick diagnosis and a series of treatments and therapies. He met with a cardiologist and physical therapist and took tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, a medicine that dissolved the blood clot “before permanent damage could be done.”

Three weeks later, Gowan was back teaching seventh grade science at Payson Junior High School.

“I still have the residual effects,” he said in an interview Friday. “I’m still numb on my right side and I still stumble over my words from time to time. But for the most part, I’m me.”

Gowan said he credits his recovery to the care he received from the physicians and nurses at Mountain View Hospital, which received national recognition this month for its stroke treatment and care.

On Aug. 7, the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association awarded the MountainStar Healthcare hospital a “Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award” for “meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients at a set level for a designated period.”

“These measures include evaluation of the proper use of medications and other stroke treatments aligned with the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients,” the hospital said in a press release.

“We work very hard with our stroke program to make it highly efficient,” said Mark Bair, an emergency physician and chair of the hospital’s emergency department, “so that we can make sure that our patients get quick access to tPA if they fit the criteria.”

Bair said in an interview Friday that, when patients who think they’ve had a stroke arrive at the hospital, radiologists will run CT scans and check for “stroke mimics,” which he described as “symptoms that look like a stroke but are not.”

“And that can be anything from a brain tumor to a ruptured aneurysm,” the emergency medicine specialist said. “So lots of different things that look like strokes that don’t end up getting that diagnosis.”

According to Bair, tPA must be administered to stroke patients within a few hours in order to be effective.

“We get ours to our patients, on average, in less than 60 minutes,” he said, “and try to average less than 45 minutes.”

The hospital, like other entities, has experienced challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, Bair noted, including that “in general … people have been careful to come to the hospitals.”

“This has caused problems for some that have had (stroke) symptoms where they would have, prior to COVID-19, gone directly to the hospital (and) been within that 3-hour window when we can provide treatment,” he said, adding that some patients have arrived at the hospital “beyond where we can provide any treatment for their symptoms.”

Despite the challenges hospitals and other entities have experienced during the pandemic, Bair said Mountain View Hospital continues to get stroke patients the care and treatment they need.

“When we have somebody who comes into the hospital with serious stroke problems, so commonly this would be half their body is not working, they’re unable to speak,” Bair said. “And they come in so afraid that they’re going to live their life that way. And in a matter of a couple of hours, we’ve been able to, through our process and our medications, reverse that back to a point where everything returns back to normal. Almost like magic. And those are the instances where patients, families and physicians feel so gratified that we have the ability to do that.”

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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