KISS fan's trip in mobile stroke unit began with Gene Simmons Order

By Julie Washington / Cleveland Plain Dealer

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Nothing - not even a stroke - was going to stop Darren Smith from meeting Gene Simmons of KISS.

Smith, 47, clung to his resolve even though he felt strange as he stood in line to see his lifelong idol at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in April.

He kept dropping the bag he held in his left hand. His left arm hung like dead weight. During a trip to the bathroom, he looked in the bathroom mirror and saw his mouth drooping on one side. He struggled to buckle his belt.

Smith's best friend, Bob Nash, who had driven with him from their homes near Detroit, asked Rock Hall staffers to call 911. The Cleveland Clinic's mobile stroke treatment unit, a special ambulance that delivers fast care to stroke patients, arrived quickly.

But Smith, a Kiss collector who has met Simmons multiple times, refused to leave the Gene Simmons Vault Experience. He had paid $2,000 for the Vault, which included one-on-one time with Simmons, a 10-CD collection, a Simmons action figure, a coffee table photo book and a hand-selected personal gift from the musician's archive.

If Smith left, he'd get nada.

When Simmons learned about the medical emergency, he found Smith and ordered him to get in the mobile stroke unit right away. "I couldn't say no to him," Smith recalled.

Reluctantly, Smith climbed into the ambulance - a decision that he credits with saving his life.

Fast treatment is critical

Time is brain, stroke specialists often say.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, usually by a blood clot or brain bleed. The sooner a stroke patient is treated, the less likely it is that he or she will be disabled, said Dr. Andrew Russman, head of the Clinic's stroke program. Reduced disability, in turn, means less money and time spent on rehabilitation, and less time away from work.

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