Survivor surprises hairstylists who helped him after he suffered a stroke

Published: May. 26, 2023 at 7:19 PM CDT
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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KCTV) - Gary Keller believes two hairstylists likely saved his life when they recognized something just wasn’t right during his haircut on May 18 in Overland Park.

Keller said he walked in for a haircut when he suddenly felt a chest pain unlike any pain he had ever felt before.

“I sat down,” Keller said. “I was trying to explain to her how I would like my hair cut. I could not speak English. It came out weird.”

The stylists asked him several questions, trying to assess what was going on. When he kept repeating words, they called his wife to ask if the symptoms they were seeing were abnormal for him. They were.

His wife rushed to pick him up and took him to a hospital that was about eight minutes away from the salon.

“I didn’t feel comfortable with him leaving the store,” Lavinia Clark said. “I called his wife first because, sometimes, women... we know what to do.”

Keller said he received overnight treatment for a stroke at Saint Luke’s South Hospital.

“The next day, the doctor comes in says, ‘You’re lucky you just had a mild stroke,’” Keller said.

Once he felt well enough, he began planning a surprise to thank Clark and her coworker, Rosilin Liba, for giving him more time with his family.

“Saving my life maybe, but the other scenario is less quality of life with a stroke,” Keller said. “So, as a Good Samaritan, she needs to be known.”

He asked KCTV5 News to join him as he personally delivered two bouquets of flowers while the Good Samaritans were at work on Friday afternoon.

“Do you remember me?” he asked as he walked through the front door. They, of course, recognized him right away.

He presented them with flowers and hugged both women who helped him that day.

“It made me feel good because that could have been my mom,” Liba said. “I think life is short. This is a good example of humanity. I hope people see this and say, ‘You know what, I should help people more.’”

Keller said he wanted to share his gratitude to remind others “there is good.”

“God was with me that day,” Keller said.

The time from the very first symptom of a stroke to treatment is crucial. Keller believes the women saved him from having more severe, long-term effects from the stroke.

“Very sweet, very sweet,” Clark said. “I’m not an emotional person, but I am human. I shed a little tear.”

According to the American Stroke Association, you can use the letters in F.A.S.T. to spot a Stroke:

  • F = Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven?
  • A = Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S = Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred?
  • T = Time to call 911.