Seeing the Signs of a Stroke

The story of Dann Bonogofski

Dann Bonogofski's daughter, Susan Osborn, says it started with a few slurred words after his typical Wednesday evening 5k run during Spokane's summer months. "He always records his time and distance," Susan says. "When he tried that night, we noticed he was having trouble writing, too. We knew something was wrong."

When the family called another daughter, a pharmacist, it occurred to the Bonogofskis that what was happening to him was very serious. "My sister told us to get him to the hospital; he was having a stroke."

"We had all heard of the signs of a stroke," Susan says about describing the symptoms to her sister. "It didn't dawn on us at first, and we wanted to know what else it could be."

Dann, a semi-retired, 69-year-old father of three daughters and an active runner, was having a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs as weakened blood vessels rupture. This type of stroke accounts for only 13 percent of all stroke cases, according to the American Heart Association. Blood from the leaking vessels accumulate around the brain causing the stroke.

"There was no way to counteract it or stop the bleeding," Susan says. "All that we could do was watch him go downhill while hoping for the best."

Susan says Dann was first taken to Providence Holy Family Hospital and was then quickly sent to neurological intensive care unit at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center & Children's Hospital. "When he came to the emergency room, he could still talk," Susan says. "But by the time he was at Sacred Heart, he couldn't talk or move."

After several weeks in the hospital, Susan says her father was transferred to St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute where he underwent the full spectrum of rehabilitative therapies: speech, occupation and physical therapy. 

"I was really sick when I got there, so I don't remember a lot," Dann says. "Family support was vital, but the nursing staff was awfully good, too. They always knew to do things to make you feel like you were the special one on the floor."

Dann says St. Luke's therapists gave him the reassurance he needed to push himself in recovery. "[Speech] therapy was so helpful, and they were always encouraging me even though I could hardly make an intelligible sound. The physical therapists made me feel like I was making record-breaking progress. And with occupational therapy, I learned that I was able to navigate around, and there was hope for me to have a normal life again."

"What they did with me in a very short time still amazes me," Dann says. "I knew I would run with my daughters again, play with my grandkids and be a husband to a very dedicated wife."

As Dann was leaving St. Luke's, Susan says she was touched by the parting words of her father's physical therapist. "I remember him saying how much my dad was going to continue to progress. He so believed in him, and I want to show him that he was right-that belief really makes a difference."

The months following Dann's stroke were full of hope and recovery, Susan says. "He's made a lot of progress. He's running again but has a dream to try and do something bigger." 

That chance came three months after leaving St. Luke's. Susan and her father had plans to go to Ethiopia to support a humanitarian project they had been part of. Because of the stroke, Susan says she was unsure that Dann would be able to make the trip. "Knowing my dad, not going on this trip would mean he couldn't be who he wanted to be anymore."

"He did go," Susan says. "He also ended up doing a 5k race while in Ethiopia to raise money for medical supplies at an orphanage there. It was very emotional seeing him work on the project, run again and do all that he had dreamed of doing."

"I know that with God's blessing, a deeply committed family and the caring staff at St. Luke's, I made it through a very trying time," Dann says. 

Knowing the signs of a stroke helped Dann seek medical attention quickly. Stroke symptoms include:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg - especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion and trouble speaking or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

St. Luke's offers inpatient and outpatient therapy for people who have experienced a stroke. As the the region's Level I Trauma Rehabilitation Hospital with a patient-centered model of care, St. Luke's is embarking to become a Stroke Center of Excellence for comprehensive stroke care.

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St. Luke's Rehabilitation Institute
711 S. Cowley St.
Spokane, WA 99202-1330

Inpatient Information: (509) 473-6058 or 1-833-FOR-SLR-1
Outpatient Information: (509) 473-6869