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Grand Rapids man survives stroke during job interview

Carleton Golder was interviewing a man for a position at West Michigan Janitorial when he experienced a medical emergency.

COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. — Carleton Golder takes a seat in a brown cloth chair in the conference room at his workplace. The chair faces the door and a window looking out into the shop. This is the very spot Golder was sitting when his life changed forever.

Golder is a district manager at West Michigan Janitorial. On March 10 he got a call from a recruiter asking if he could interview a job candidate because her plans had changed and she didn't want to cancel. Golder agreed to it. It may have been the best decision he's ever made.

"We started talking, and I started explaining to him the position that he was applying for. Everything was going pretty normal. I do remember when I was talking to him, I had a slight headache," Golder said.

"I started massaging my temples as I was talking to him and listening to him. And then all I remember at that point was him saying 'Hey Carleton, are you alright?' And my I'm thinking 'What are you talking about, am I alright?' He says, 'I kind of lost you there for a second.'"

It didn't take too long for the candidate to realize what was going on.

"He says 'I think you're having a stroke.' So my mind is like, are you serious? And then from that point on, I really don't remember a lot. That got kind of faded out. I vaguely remember voices. I don't even remember being put in an ambulance. I kind of vaguely remember hearing the sirens," Golder said.

He was rushed to Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital in downtown Grand Rapids where Dr. Paul Mazaris, a cerebral vascular neurosurgeon, was on call for neuro intervention.

"He had two occlusions. One in the neck and one inside the brain. It's called the tandem occlusion. We went in with a little catheter, a little straw essentially, and opened up both occlusions," Mazaris said.

It was only a few hours between the time the job interview began and the procedure at the hospital wrapped up. Spectrum Health interventional and vascular neurologist, Dr. Jenny Tsai, said the quick thinking in the conference room and the quick work by the doctors saved Golder from a much sadder outcome.

"Time really matters, getting the patients to the right person to the right treatment to the right team. That is gold," she said.

Tsai wants people to remember the acronym "BE FAST" to identify when someone might be having a stroke.

  • "B" stands for balance (look for loss of balance)
  • "E" stands for eyes (vision may blur)
  • "F" stands for face (look for drooping)
  • "A" stands for arm (look for weakness)
  • "S" stands for speech (listen for slurring)
  • "T" stands for time to call an ambulance.

"We can lose up to 2 million blood brain cells per minute, and that is very, very important. That's when we say call 911. Emergency services can bypass everything when they arrive at the hospital," Tsai said.

Back at West Michigan Janitorial, Golder has resumed his typical duties. He still hadn't had the chance to personally thank the man who saved his life. That man didn't end up taking the job. Golder believes that's proof that he was in that conference room for a reason. He calls the man an angel.

"That just lets me know even more that he thought he was here for [the interview]. But really his assignment that day was to come and save me," Golder said.

May is Stroke Awareness Month. Spectrum Health has resources on their website to help further your understanding of strokes, how to recognize them and how to prevent them.

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