WEST FARGO, N.D. — The family of a 79-year-old Moorhead, Minn., woman says they’re “incredibly grateful” to a furniture store employee for helping their mother through a stroke.

Brianna Normand, who works at Slumberland in West Fargo, N.D., says that an otherwise ordinary Monday morning, Sept. 14, turned “extraordinary” when a customer called and hung up several times.

“It was very apparent something was wrong,” Normand said. “She would stutter. She’d have a hard time getting her words out or she’d be slurring her words.”

The woman was apparently trying to order a chair, but when she had trouble communicating, she became frustrated and hung up for a fourth time.

Normand knew she needed to call her back.

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“I asked ‘Are you OK? Can I call someone for you?’” Normand said. “She just said ‘No, it’s OK, I think I’m having a mini-stroke. I’ve had one before.”

Normand says as the conversation went on, it sounded like the woman was getting better, but Normand, who used to work at a nursing home, wasn’t convinced all was well.

“She kept saying she was fine and she wanted to order the chair,” she said. “I told her ‘The chair will be here tomorrow, can we just worry about you now?’ She just really wanted that chair.”

Normand said she reluctantly started placing the order for the chair, feeling "wary" about doing it when the woman had just had a stroke.

Brianna Normand works at Slumberland in West Fargo. A customer called to purchase a chair, but Normand noticed something wrong with the customer which led her to calling for help. The customer had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or "ministroke." The customer is ok, but her son is grateful Normand took the time to make sure his mother was ok. Chris Flynn / The Forum
Brianna Normand works at Slumberland in West Fargo. A customer called to purchase a chair, but Normand noticed something wrong with the customer which led her to calling for help. The customer had a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or "ministroke." The customer is ok, but her son is grateful Normand took the time to make sure his mother was ok. Chris Flynn / The Forum

“But then I realized I had everything I needed from her to get help — her phone number and address. So I called Moorhead dispatch to ask if they could do a welfare check on her,” Normand said.

After hanging up with dispatch, Normand started to question whether she did the right thing. She called her boss, Slumberland General Manager Derick Vettleson, to warn him he might be getting a call from a customer later, angry that the paramedics showed up at her house.

“I worried because I was going against her wishes. I was worried she’d be mad at me, but I wanted someone to help her. What if she had another stroke right after we hung up, one that was much worse where she couldn’t speak or move?” Normand said.

“She absolutely did the right thing,” Vettleson said. “The main thing we look for in hiring people here is honesty and integrity, and what Brianna did showed integrity.”

Vettleson did get a call the next day from the woman’s family, but it definitely wasn’t an angry one. It was from the woman’s son, calling to thank the store for what it had done.

“My sister, brother and I all live out of state,” said Brian Ness. "So we’re incredibly touched that somebody who is at a business, who doesn’t know my mother from anybody else, is concerned enough to take the time to make sure she was OK.”

The woman was OK and even declined the paramedics offer to take her to the hospital. Ness says she later drove herself and got confirmation that it was a mini stroke. She’s resting now at home, perhaps soon in the new recliner that started all of this.

“Lately, when people are complaining about what’s going on in the world, I’ll say 'Well, I have a really good story to tell you,’” Ness said. “Then I’ll tell them the story. It just restores your trust in humanity.”

If you're not sure if someone is having a stroke, remember the acronym FAST. Graphic courtesy: American Stroke Association
If you're not sure if someone is having a stroke, remember the acronym FAST. Graphic courtesy: American Stroke Association