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Woman left riding Milwaukee bus for hours after having stroke

Lindsey Morone

Woman left riding Milwaukee bus for hours after having stroke

By Lindsey Morone. CREATED May 17, 2012 - UPDATED: May 17, 2012

MILWAUKEE- What was supposed to be a ten minute bus ride turned into hours when a local woman suffered a stroke.  Doctors say when in desperate need of medical attention, she was left riding a Milwaukee County bus route.  

On an ordinary work day, a Milwaukee County Transit bus ride took Marion Warbleton to a place she never thought she'd be.

"After I got on the bus, I couldn't remember what happened after that," says Marion.
The stroke happened in an instant but hours went by where, doctors say, her fate could have been drastically changed. Those hours that went by where no one spoke up, or called 911, could have been critical in her recovery.

Marion got on the number fifteen bus at Hadley and Holton.  She was supposed to get off at Wisconsin Avenue. It should have been just a ten minute ride.  However, Marion, unable to move, did not get off. Instead, she rode the route all the way to South Milwaukee.  Then, all the way back up to Bayshore South.

And her family says she rode the entire route twice.  They now blame the bus driver.
"I think part of the responsibility is driving safely but also the care of the person that gets on the bus," says Marion's brother, Benjy Warbleton.
Benjy, now takes care of Marion as she relearns the forgotten.
"How to do the wash and how to do her normal routine that she was doing before. My mom is helping her with the knitting," he explains.
Marion would knit Kleenex holders and cross shaped book marks and then hand them out to people on the bus. She knew the regular riders, but on a cold February day, no one knew she needed help.
"She rode a bus for five hours and she shouldn't have," Benjy says.

MCTS declined interviews and refused to go on camera with the I-Team. Instead, it only issued this statement:

"MCTS was saddened to hear of Ms. Warbleton's health condition. Drivers are trained to immediately contact MCTS dispatch for assistance if a person shows an indication of health problems or personally requests medical assistance. Ms. Warbleton did not show any visible signs of distress on the busy bus route that would have alerted the driver, or the many other passengers, to request assistance." - Jacqueline Janz, Chief Marketing & Communications Officer for MCTS.

Dr. Michael Conner treated Marion when she arrived at St. Mary's emergency room.  He says though her stroke was mild, there were slight signs.

"She was not making sense. She didn't know where she was. She had an ever so slight facial droop and some slurred speech," explains Dr. Conner.
Over the phone, MCTS admitted to the I-Team the bus driver questioned why Marion kept missing her Wisconsin Avenue stop. But says she could talk, and when asked where she was getting off, she'd always say 'Wisconsin'.

"It wasn't until they finally changed bus drivers that the new bus driver knew that there was something else wrong that she wasn't just a sleeping customer," says Benjy.
The I-Team pieced together a time line. According to MCTS, the driver called security. Security came on board, and called police. Police then called for medical. By that time, it was around three in the afternoon. She was supposed to have gotten off at her stop a little after ten in the morning.
"Her initial CT scan of the brain revealed changes in the brain that had suggested that the stroke had been going on for some time," says Dr. Conner.
Almost four months later, Marion goes to therapy twice a week, learning how to live again on her own after she felt so alone on that bus.
And as Marion struggles to find the words, she says she believes she's improving.  "I very much think that I am very improving a lot from when I first started."

The I-Team asked MCTS for its bus cam video recorded the day of Marion's stroke to confirm their side of the story.  Jacqueline Janz says they followed their standard protocol and deleted the video because there was no incident worthy of keeping the tape.  She says their driver did everything right.  That there was not a reason to go back and investigate the situation.  Janz also explained MCTS bus drivers are not medically trained.  They are required only to call for medical when needed.

Dr. Conner says Marion's story is an example as to why it is so important to always look out for your neighbors and when in doubt, call for help. He says a stroke is like a heart attack only an attack on your brain.  He offered an easy way to remember how to check if someone is having a stroke. Remember the word FAST.

F - Face. Look at the person's face. Does one side droop?

A - Arm. Lift their arms up, if one arm drifts down that's a sign of stroke.

S - Speech. Have the person repeat a simple sentence. Listen for slurred words or if they are talking very slowly.

T -Time. Dr. Conner says time is of essence, dial 911.