NBC4’s Jerod Smalley schedules surgery to repair hole in his heart

Local News

We have an update about our colleague, Sports Director Jerod Smalley, who is home recovering after suffering a stroke last week. 

Tuesday, he scheduled the surgery he’ll need to repair a hole in his heart. The outpatient surgery will be performed in early September and he learned he can likely go home that same day. It’s a huge relief to him, his wife, and his NBC4 family.

Jerod has a message he wants to share with viewers: Take care of yourself!

Jerod said last Thursday he had an ordinary day at work and it started off as an ordinary night.

“I’ve never felt better. Seriously, I’ve never felt better physically than in my life until Thursday night,” he said. 

He had just gotten into bed when he called out for his wife Mary Ellen.

“He started yelling Mel, ‘I can’t feel my face’ and I couldn’t understand him,” said Mary Ellen.

Light from his phone illuminated his face and she knew something was very wrong.

“I saw that his entire right side of his face was drooping and he was slurring his speech,” she said.

They rushed to the hospital and learned at just 39, Jerod had a stroke. And, to his shock, he discovered it’s not the first time.

“I have had two strokes,” he said. “I can’t, I can’t believe that I can say that I’m a stroke survivor because I don’t feel like it. I feel good, I really do. I feel healthy,” he said.

Doctors discovered a tiny hole in the top of his heart; a defect that can cause blood clotting and lead to a stroke. An outpatient heart procedure will fix the problem next month.

“I feel ridiculously lucky,” he said.

Jerod credits that luck to keeping his heart strong through eating right and exercising. He said you can’t change genetics, but you can stack the odds in your favor.

“You can improve your circumstances and I think that’s the probably the best message,” he said.

Jerod hopes to be back at work next week on light duty talking about sports again and not strokes.

That’s what I love to do. I love doing it. I love to tell somebody else’s story. I hate telling my own,” he said.

If you notice the signs of a stroke, health professionals say the key is to act fast. F.A.S.T. is the the acronym developed by the American Stroke Association to help identify the signs of a stroke.

F – Face drooping. Is one side of the person’s face drooping or numb? When he or she smiles, is the smile uneven?
A – Arm weakness. Is the person experiencing weakness or numbness in one arm? Have the person raise both arms. Does one of the arms drift downward?
S – Speech difficulty. Is the person’s speech suddenly slurred or hard to understand? Is he or she unable to speak? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Can he or she repeat it back?
T – Time to call 9-1-1. If any of these symptoms are present, dial 9-1-1 immediately. Check the time so you can report when the symptoms began.

The American Stroke Association says stroke is a disease that affects the arteries leading to and within the brain. It is the 5th leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain is either blocked by a clot or bursts or ruptures. When that happens, part of the brain cannot get the blood and oxygen it needs, so it and brain cells die. It says 80% of strokes are preventable.

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