Sam the Stroke Man

Sam Lampson will never forget Valentine’s Day 2013. Unfortunately it’s not a romantic memory. His right arm and the right side of his head went numb. Instead of being able to communicate, his words became jumbled.

Lampson had become a statistic, the victim of a stroke, which happens to someone in the U.S. every 30 seconds. But unlike those who die from a stroke every 3.3 minutes, he survived. Barely.

A TIA — an acronym for a type of mild stroke with temporary symptoms — often foreshadows a full-blown stroke that causes permanent brain damage.

“Picture your arteries and veins like drainage pipes,” Lampson explained. “When a pipe gets clogged, blockage or leaks occur.”

Lampson’s rendezvous with a major stroke began in 2006, and for the next seven years the TIAs occasionally recurred. For short bursts of time, he experienced right-side numbness. But like most people, he waved off the episodes as a brief nuisance.

“I figured they would just go away,” Lampson said.

But there’s more to this story than the somewhat ordinary news about a stroke sufferer. It changed Lampson’s life to the point that he decided to crusade against the third-leading cause of death in this country.

“I decided to become a communicator to help others recognize the danger signs of strokes and to do something about it,” the 45-year-old Clearwater man said.

But as he went through the rigors of rehabilitation and learned more about strokes, he found it to be a tedious process.

“Most of the lectures I’d ever heard about strokes from well-meaning doctors were boring, and same for brochures and literature I read,” Lampson said. “As a layman, I felt that maybe I could relate better to the average person.”

Lampson, an electronics expert who’s owned an amateur radio station since 1981, spent 32 years as a computer consultant. Now in retirement after recovering from the Valentine’s Day stroke, he invested $2,000 in a professional-grade wireless microphone, projector, screen and sound system. The result is an easy-to-follow presentation laced with surprises and clever use of graphics to hold viewers’ attention.

His audiences are never hustled for follow-up products like DVDs or newsletters.

“The whole idea is to educate people and at least give them a good shot at not getting a stroke,” Lampson said. “I speak at churches, homeowners associations, fraternal and civic organizations, and even to individuals willing to listen.”

But not everyone heeds his advice, not even friends. During a phone conversation this past October with Lou Rodriguez of Clearwater, Lampson heard him describe symptoms such as slurred speech that sounded like a TIA. Lampson advised him to immediately go to a doctor or hospital for an MRI and a CT scan.

“I just didn’t worry about it,” Rodriguez said, “and the same with continued episodes.” Big mistake, particularly considering his age (80) and his father’s history of strokes. Sure enough, on Dec. 3, Rodriguez suffered a full-blown stroke only a week after another TIA.

I can relate. While dining with my wife four years ago, I nearly passed out. It happened again a few weeks later. That time she rushed me to the ER at Morton Plant Hospital, where an attendant took my vitals: blood pressure of 210 over 113 with a pulse rate of 35 bpm. They wheeled me into ICU immediately and implanted a pacemaker.

The doctor later told me, “Forget if you’d have waited another day or even a few hours later to come in – a delay of just a few more minutes would have resulted in a massive stroke or heart attack.”

“That’s the biggest issue — ignoring the warning signs,” Lampson said. “If you know the risk factors and symptoms, you can usually avoid a stroke. And that’s what my mission in life is now all about.”

For more information, contact him at (727) 210-5539 or visit

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