The Stroke That Saved His Life

When 43-year-old Ronald Mullins arrived at the Georgetown Toyota plant on a Friday in late 2021, he felt a little off. But he never thought he could be in the early stages of a stroke—or that it would end up saving his life.

Early into his workday, Ronald’s vision went blurry. He felt dizzy. He collapsed and couldn’t talk. Recognizing the signs of a stroke, his coworkers immediately called for help.

A photo of the entire Mullins family posing together outside at the Ashland estate.
“When you have problems, they can be turned into blessings,” said Ronald.

“We are so blessed that the stroke happened while he was at work,” said Jessica, Ronald’s wife. “There are paramedics on-site at Toyota, which gave him access to immediate medical help. He was quickly transferred to Georgetown Hospital, where he received the clot-busting drug TPA.”

A candid photo of Ronald in his hospital bed looking at something off camera. A nurse is leaning over the railing of his bed and is also looking at something off camera.
“We really bonded with our people in trauma ICU,” said Jessica. “They’ve become part of our family.”

But Ronald’s clot was too big to dissolve with medication. An ambulance rushed him to the Comprehensive Stroke Center at UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Neuroscience Institute—one of only four locations in Kentucky to achieve that status.

A photo of Dr. Rani Vasireddy smiling while standing in front of a wall decal with sunflowers on it. She is a South Asian woman with long black hair that is tied back in a ponytail. She is wearing a blue UK HealthCare-branded jacket over a pair of dark blue scrubs.
“I always tell people he’s one of my favorite patients,” said Dr. Rani Vasireddy.

“When I first saw him, his words weren’t making any sense,” said Dr. Rani Vasireddy, a second-year neurology resident on the stroke alert team. “He was just talking and talking, and he didn’t know that his sentences weren’t meaningful. When patients with sensory aphasia talk, they think we can understand them, but we can’t—so Ronald was speaking his mind, but it comes as non-meaningful sentences for the rest of us.”

A photo of Dr. Vasireddy and another doctor smiling, posing, and holding Ronald’s hands as they pose together for a photo as Ronald lays his hospital bed.
“Many people help me,” said Ronald. “Dr. Rani has been so compassionate [to] me.”

After a surgery to remove the clot and restore blood flow to his brain, Ronald’s medical team determined the root cause of his stroke. Ronald had atrial fibrillation: a serious heart condition where the upper chambers of the heart beat chaotically and out of sync with the lower chambers. A-fib, as it’s commonly known, can be asymptomatic—but makes it more likely for the patient to experience a clot. In Ronald’s case, his A-fib caused a clot to break off, leave the heart and travel to the brain to cause his stroke.

A photo of Dr. Maya Ignaszewski holding her hands in front of her as she smiles for the camera. She is a white woman with long blonde straight hair. She is wearing a white lab coat over a black shirt with a white pattern on it.
“You always want to do right by the person,” said Dr. Ignaszewski. “It’s so rewarding helping them get better.”

“Ronald’s stroke may have, in effect, saved his life,” said Dr. Maya Ignaszewski (known as Dr. I to her patients), the physician in charge of Ronald’s cardiac care at UK HealthCare’s Gill Heart & Vascular Institute. “If it hadn’t happened, he wouldn’t have known he has atrial fibrillation or cardiomyopathy—which is a disease of the heart muscle that causes it to become weak and makes it more difficult to pump blood to the rest of the body. All of this was uncovered because of the stroke.”

A photo of Ronald and a team of his nurses smiling for the photo from the side of his hospital bed.
“Our entire experience at UK HealthCare aligned us with [people] we will never, ever forget,” said Jessica.

Two related conditions meant two related recoveries. Through a combination of physical rehabilitation, speech therapy, and medication, Ronald and his team are working hard to strengthen his heart and help rebuild the functions affected by his stroke. It’s an effort that takes a team, including physicians and therapists across multiple specialties, as well as nurses like Stacy Ford.

A photo of Dr. Vasireddy, Dr. Ignaszewski, and another doctor together posing together on a staircase in the hospital.
“Everyone works really well together to help [our patients] get the very best care,” said Dr. Ignaszewski.

“Stacy is the one who, probably much more than me, interacts and speaks with the Mullinses behind the scenes,” said Dr. Ignaszewski. “So she’s a big liaison and a go-between between them, myself and other care providers, so she’s been instrumental also in helping their journey and helping them move forward.”

A candid photo of Ronald leaning his head on his wife, Jessica’s, shoulder as she laughs. She is a white woman with long curly blonde hair. She is wearing an orange vest over a long-sleeve brown sweater, and a pair of dark-rimmed glasses.
“We’re making progress every day,” said Jessica.

“I hope people understand that when something like this happens, the people around them know that they need them. I need her every day,” said Ronald about Jessica, who has been by his side nonstop. Jessica’s background as an elementary school principal has been invaluable as she and Ronald have worked to rebuild his speech—one of the areas most affected by his stroke.

A photo of the entire Mullins family posing together for a photo with a cutout from the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk.
“[Our] children are great teachers themselves,” said Ronald. “They’ve all had a hand in that.”

“We call Ronald the teddy bear of our patient group, but his resolve, strength and motivation to do everything he can to get better is so impressive,” said Dr. Ignaszewski. “He and Jessica always have smiles on their faces and always ask, ‘What else can we be doing?’ They’re phenomenal, remarkable people.”

A photo of Ronald with his arms around his children as they pose together outside. Isaac (left) is a young white boy with medium length blonde hair. He is wearing a dark blue long-sleeve shirt and khaki pants. Lauren (center) is a young white girl with long blonde curled hair. She is wearing a long-sleeve dark-colored dress with a pink and red floral pattern. William (right) is a young white boy with long blonde curly hair. He is wearing a long-sleeved red checkered shirt over a black t-shirt with a pair of khaki pants.
“I took so [much for] granted before all this began,” said Ronald. “It has completely changed my life.”

“We have hard days, yes, but it’s a conscious effort to be humble and appreciative,” said Jessica. “We’re going to love people and learn and grow. That’s our goal: one word at a time, one day at a time.”

“I’m hopeful,” said Ronald. “One step at a time.”

A photo of Ronald smiling for the camera with his arms crossed confidently across his chest.
“Instead of being sad, [I’m] happy and excited for new opportunities,” said Ronald.

See how we care for patients like Ronald

at UK HealthCare’s Kentucky Neuroscience Institute and Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

A photo of Matt May looking into the camera as he leans on the fencing of the dugout at Kentucky Proud Park. Matt is a white man with short gray hair. He is wearing a blue short-sleeve UK branded polo and khakis.