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Stroke survivor realizes dream of opening restaurant

May is National Stroke Awareness Month
Posted at 12:57 PM, May 17, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-17 23:38:32-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — May marks National Stroke Awareness Month.

According to the National Stroke Association, adults between the ages of 18 and 65 are increasingly ending up in the hospital due to the medical emergency. In fact, the number rose by 44 percent over the last decade.

Jesus Renteria is one of the people behind those statistics.

While operating a successful taco truck, Renteria dreamed of opening his own restaurant.

"It's my passion. I love to cook," he told 41 Action News.

The dream nearly vanished in December 2017, when he developed a strange headache after getting out of the shower.

"A pain that was very acute," he said. "And that pain started to grow little by little until it was all over."

Renteria ended up in the emergency room at Saint Luke's Hospital.

"When we got there, he was really bad," Renteria's daughter, Laura, said.

That's when the family met Dr. Andrew Schlachter, a pulmonologist and neurointensivist.

"Like any good emergency, Jesus and I met each other in the middle of the night," Schlachter said.

The diagnosis was a surprise to Renteria and his family: At just 47 years old, he had blood on his brain and had suffered a stroke.

"A stroke is when the blood flow to one part of the brain gets stopped by any particular reason, most commonly because of a blockage very similar to a blockage we would have in our heart causing a heart attack," Schlachter said.

It follows that many of the risk factors for stroke are the same as those for heart disease. High blood pressure, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, obesity and tobacco use can all contribute to stroke.

The effects of a stroke can be devastating and permanent. That's why it's important to recognize these signs and symptoms:

  • Face drooping/numbness;
  • Arm weakness/numbness;
  • Slurred speech or difficulty understanding language;
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes;
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness;
  • Sudden severe headache.

Time is of the essence, so call 911 if any of the symptoms appear.

"Brain tissue, just like heart tissue, once lost is not often regained," Schlachter said.

Thankfully, after a week in the intensive care unit, Renteria walked away with no neurological damage.

Nearly two months ago, he opened his restaurant, El Gallo Mexican Food, on East U.S. 40 Highway.

"I'm happy for him. That was his dream for years," said Laura, his daughter.

A familiar face visited the restaurant last Friday.

"We had a whole bunch of tacos. My favorite was the carne asada taco, and my wife loved the chicken tacos," Schlachter said.

"The doctor is a great person, like being a human being in his job," Renteria said.

The whole experience taught Renteria an important lesson: If something doesn't seem right, don't ignore it.

"A headache may seem very simple, but if we're not cautious, it could take us to our death," he said.