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'It's amazing:' Montana man credits quick emergency response to surviving sudden stroke

The Ore's
Posted at 7:49 AM, May 29, 2024

One man from Harrison, Montana, is thankful for the quick response he received from medical teams after suffering a sudden stroke on April 1.

Steve Ore suffered the stroke at about 6 a.m. and after two different flights, he was being operated on in Billings at St. Vincent's Healthcare before noon. Harrison is a town located between Butte and Bozeman with a population of 42.

While the events of that day are a bit hazy, Ore still remembers how it started.

"It was a typical day, really. I was getting up for work at about 5:30 like I usually do," Ore, 59, said. "Last thing I remember is getting something out of the dryer. It was just images after that and my wife found me on the floor."

Ore believes he passed out from the stroke, and he was stuck on the floor for several minutes. His wife, Margaret Ore, found him soon after the incident.

"He kept saying, 'No, just let me lay here. Just let me lay here," Margaret recalled. "But as he was (talking), his voice was slurred and I finally just said, 'That's it. I'm calling for an ambulance.'"

That ambulance arrived quickly, which is something the Ores said wouldn't have been possible until recently. Their community, Madison County, recently upgraded its volunteer ambulance service.

"Previously, it was all volunteer, and they couldn't even put you in the ambulance," Margaret said. "They would just come and sit with you until other help arrived."

The possibility of having an ambulance was just the first fortunate step in what became a long journey. Ore was eventually flown from his home to St. James Hospital in Butte.

"They called 9-1-1 and from that point on, the system worked exactly how it was supposed to work," said St. James ER Director Alan Mayer.

Mayer and his team examined Ore in Butte, before making the quick decision to fly him to Billings for surgery. Stroke Program Coordinator at St. Vincent's Penny Clifton said every choice that day was crucial.

"Like a relay race, it has to start with patient identification, personnel identification and ER identification to move that patient quickly," Clifton said.

Less than six hours after Ore's collapse, he was in surgery 200 miles away.

"It is the dream scenario, especially for a man who was still working, still parenting, still grandparenting," Clifton said. "What was threatening was not only his life, but also his vision."

Both Clifton and Mayer agreed that Ore's story proves that Montana hospitals are making progress in increasing rural emergency responses across the state.

"If anybody would've failed time-wise in that process, I don't think this guy would've done as well as he did," Mayer said.

Today, Ore is back to doing the things he loves, only suffering minor ailments following his stroke. He said it's thanks in large part to the timely care he received.

"I don't imagine too many years ago, I would not have been in the same scenario," he said. "It's amazing."

Medical professionals are hoping his outcome becomes the norm for rural Montanans.

"I think this man is a perfect example of how the system can work with proper communication and education," Clifton said. "In a way, we are kind of writing that process and this proves that what we're doing is working."