Paula Gault began showing signs of improvement Friday, two days after suffering a stroke while en route to San Francisco with her husband.
The former superintendent of Forsyth County Schools complained of blurred vision and numbness while on a flight from Phoenix to San Francisco with husband Robert Hughes, her daughter said.
“Of course, she didn’t want to tell anyone on the plane,” Kristin Martin said. “They were able to take her blood pressure and it was extremely high.”
Gault was immediately transferred to the Mills-Peninsula Hospital, the closest to the airport in San Francisco.
While the cause and extent of damage still is being determined, Martin said results of an MRI taken Friday show it is "very apparent there was a stroke to the right side.”
Martin said the MRI showed minimal damage to the left side of her brain, which affects function on the right side of the body. But her right leg and arm are at nearly 100 percent capacity.
It’s the left side of her mother's body, Martin said, that is “not near capacity."
After the incident Wednesday, Gault was virtually paralyzed on the left side of her body and had major vision problems.
By Friday, her vision had "improved greatly,” Martin said.
There are some inconsistencies, she said, but Gault can read the clock on the wall and complete exercises assigned by the medical staff.
Though her vision was improving, movement of her arms and legs has progressed much slower.
By Friday, Martin said, her mother was “finally able to make a fist and squeeze, but she still cannot lift her left arm, and she still can't do anything with her left leg.”
Martin, an assistant principal at Sawnee Elementary School, received a phone call from Hughes on Wednesday night. The next morning, she was on a plane to help with her mother’s recovery.
“She was glad to see me, but I made her start working immediately,” Martin said. “My stepdad likes to pamper her, which is fine, but she needs to be using her hands.
“A vital part of the recovery of a stroke victim is family and friends pushing that person to complete tasks that are going to strengthen the weak and damaged areas.”
Martin said Hughes “gets a little down,” but has remained strong and by his wife’s side.
When she first got the phone call, and while she was on the plane to San Francisco, Martin said she had moments of uncertainty.
“But the minute I saw her, I have definitely taken the positive approach,” she said.
“Our focus has not been on the disability, or what has happened, but on the here and now. This is what we’re dealing with, so let’s deal with it.”
Gault was flying to San Francisco, her favorite city in the country, Martin said.
It was the first visit for Hughes, and Gault was excited to take him there. After three days in the city, the two were going to Nappa Valley and then to Yosemite.
Since retiring in January, Gault has started traveling more and "has loved every minute of it,” Martin said.
Despite several successful flights around the country and internationally, a similar incident happened about four years ago during a trip to the Dominican Republic.
The result was a minor stroke called a transient ischaemic attack. Though a warning sign, the attack resulted in no damage.
There are no plans at this point for Gault to return home, but through messages of care sent via a Web site, Martin said Gault feels less isolated from her friends and family more than 2,500 miles away.
“We read the CarePage messages and we’ll get a little teary-eyed,” she said. “The whole community … since the first CarePage posting this morning, we’ve had over 100 messages already.”
While she’s still struggling with her physical abilities, there has been no damage to her mental capacity.
“She’s been a good sport, but she has moments where she’s dreadful of what the future could be,” Martin said. “But she’s a fighter and she’s as bossy as ever.
“The nurses are like, ‘If you can run a school system, you can fight this.’”