Four strokes forced officer into retirement, but couldn’t keep him there
The first time Scott Davis had a stroke, the West Des Moines police officer was giving an anti-drug presentation to schoolchildren.
His second stroke came a few hours later, while on an operating table, undergoing a rare procedure to correct the problem that caused the first stroke. The damage was so devastating that the organ transplant team was called to the hallway; everyone thought Scott was about to become a donor.
His third stroke came seven months later. And when he survived a fourth stroke, Scott got a different kind of life-changing news.
He could no longer be a police officer. A state panel ruled that the medications Scott needed to prevent another stroke, combined with the dangers of his job, made it too risky for him to continue.
With mixed emotions, Scott – who was 39 and in otherwise great physical condition – went through a full-fledged farewell ceremony. His picture was posted on the wall of retirees, and he was sent home with a flag, a clock and wooden plaque that had his badge (No. 86) screwed onto it.
Seventeen months later, the police force had to issue another badge because Scott was back in action.
That’s right – Scott not only beat four strokes, he also beat the medical retirement he was forced to take. Thanks to timely treatment, his good physical condition and the support of his family and friends, Scott was able to resume his career as a police officer.
“I’m only the sixth person in the state of Iowa put back to work,” he said proudly. “It had never happened in West Des Moines. There were a lot of things they had to figure out, like getting me a new badge with my old number. It was a big deal to me.”
Scott’s story is filled with extremes, such as the odds he beat in merely surviving the first two strokes. One of his doctors even told Scott, “People don’t survive the kind of strokes you had.”
“My age and physical condition were a big factor,” he said. “A bigger factor was the EMS response, getting me to the hospital and the fact one of the few doctors around who knew how to perform (the rare procedure he needed) just happened to be at the hospital at that time.”
Scott had some short-term memory loss, but has overcome it. His only lingering problem is numbness from the corner to the middle of left side of his lip. His sons – Hunter, 17, and Garrett, 12 – love teasing him when food gets stuck there and he doesn’t realize it.
His biggest issue was the blood thinners, the stroke prevention drugs that he was taking. So when a doctor said he could stop taking them, Scott immediately wanted his retirement re-evaluated. He'd passed the danger zone for having another stroke and was able to come off the blood thinners he was taking. His fiancée, Hannah, who is also a paramedic, urged him to wait to make sure he did OK without the medicine.
Two months later, a follow-up exam showed that he was doing just fine. Scott said, “Let’s go for it,” and Hannah agreed he was ready.
He’s been back on duty for more than a year. He’s also become a volunteer for the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association, eagerly telling the cautionary tale of how someone so young and strong could be stricken by a stroke – and emphasizing that stroke is treatable and beatable.
“I still get choked up sometimes,” he said. “I survived because other people helped me. I want to help others, too.”
Another way he’s helping is setting up a Public Safety Team for his local Heart Walk. The police, fire, EMS and dispatch departments are competing to see which can raise the most money for the American Heart Association. He also hopes to raise awareness within the public-safety community.
“Our job is to take care of everyone else,” he said, “but we also need to take care of ourselves.”
Scott will be doing just that the day of the walk, June 15. He won’t be at the event because he has another commitment: That’s the day he and Hannah are getting married.
Watch Part One of Scott's Survivor Story