Swift Actions that Helped Save the Life of a Davidson County Criminal Court Judge Result in Resolution Recognizing Colleagues, First Responders

February 23, 2022

May 4 started as a typical day for Judge Cheryl Blackburn, Criminal Court, Division III, 20th Judicial District. She finished a sentencing hearing and was about to head back to her office when she took a detour that may have saved her life.

“Instead of coming into my office, I went to Angie’s office to ask her a question,” Judge Blackburn said. “I had my mask on at the time and she looked up at me and told me to take my mask off. She saw my eye and the side of my face not doing well. She called her secretary to get the paramedics here. By then, I had no ability to use my arm.”

Angie, as her colleague calls her, is Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton, Criminal Court, Division II, 20th Judicial District. Judge Dalton had a feeling Judge Blackburn was suffering a stroke.

“Awareness about the signs of stroke is vitally important,” Judge Dalton said. “If you are aware of stroke signs when you notice something that seems out of the ordinary, you are in a better position to take necessary steps to get help. When Judge Blackburn was in my office, I noticed that her speech was slurred and that her left eye started to close. Recognizing those symptoms alerted me that something was possibly wrong. That led me to take the next steps to get help. My assistant came in and we both asked questions, due to our awareness of stroke signs, to give us a better understanding of Judge Blackburn’s condition. We asked her to smile, wiggle her fingers, blink her eyes, etc. With a stroke, time is of the essence. After determining that Judge Blackburn was probably having a stroke, we immediately called 911. We are thankful that our quick response helped to save Judge Blackburn’s life.”

Signs and symptoms of a stroke can be vague, leading patients to delay treatment until after it is too late to save delicate brain and nerve cells.

“It was just the classic symptoms,” Judge Blackburn said. “Normally, I get off the bench and go to my office. Fortunately, I had to talk to Angie and she was well aware of what she saw. A lot of people wouldn’t pay attention like that.”

Judge Blackburn arrived at Vanderbilt University Medical Center within 30-40 minutes of entering Judge Dalton’s office. She underwent a thrombectomy, a type of surgery to remove a blood clot from her brain, and was out of surgery and talking by 5 p.m.

“They said it went perfectly,” Judge Blackburn said. “I didn’t go back on the bench until two weeks, but was back in the office in one week. I had no side effects.”

Judge Blackburn was so touched by the swift action of everyone involved, that she asked the Metropolitan County Council to present Resolution 2021-1299 at its Dec. 7, 2021 meeting. The Resolution underscores the importance of knowing the signs of stroke and acknowledges the lifesaving actions of Judge Angelita Blackshear Dalton, Paramedic Jesse Gullett, EMT Patrick Lee, Firefighter Kayla Toney, Engineer Jeremy Taylor, Firefighter Maxwell McWright and Firefighter Peter Windgett, in response to Judge Blackburn’s stroke.

“I wanted people to know, especially in Nashville, how well-trained and how good the emergency personnel are, and how quickly they do their job,” Judge Blackburn said. “We should be very proud of what they do. We need to thank them more than we normally do. The council was very supportive.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), immediate action is key. If you think someone might be experiencing a stroke, conduct the “F.A.S.T.” test:

F - Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?

A - Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S - Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?

T - Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Receiving immediate treatment for a stroke increases the likelihood of a full recovery.

Read the full Resolution here and view the Dec. 7, 2021 presentation here. Judge Blackburn’s remarks begin at 4:48.