Around 6 a.m. in December 2020, Glen, 53, was sitting in his car in the driveway. As if instantly, an odd sensation came over him and he lost sensation on his left side. He forced the car door open and stumbled into the house.
His family helped Glen to the couch thinking rest would help him. Soon it was 3 p.m. and his symptoms worsened. He experienced facial drooping, loss of balance and slurred speech.
His family called 911, but crucial time had slipped away.
Paramedics transported Glen to the emergency department at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center. He was assessed by the Comprehensive Stroke Center care team who used an angiogram – a diagnostic test that uses X-rays to take pictures of your blood vessels – to confirm that Glen was having a stroke. While several area hospitals are equipped to treat strokes, Long Beach Medical Center is a Joint Commission Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center. This is the highest level of recognition for stroke centers and means that the care team handles the most complex stroke cases.
A stroke occurs when a blood vessel that delivers oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked by a clot. This lack of oxygen and blood to the brain can be life-threatening.
The care team rushed him to Interventional Neuroradiology where a minimally invasive endovascular technique called thrombectomy (“clot removal”) is performed to treat acute stroke caused by a clot in the brain vessel.
“Patients who suffer from a stroke are treated with a drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA),” says Viktor Szeder, M.D., NeuroInterventionalist, Comprehensive Stroke Center, Long Beach Medical Center. “tPA ‘busts’ the blood clot(s) causing the stroke. The key is to administer tPA early, within 3 hours from the time the patient was seen without the stroke symptoms. However, if the patient is found to have a clot in any of the large brain vessels, thrombectomy is the only brain, and many times lifesaving, surgery. This includes patients who present beyond the 3-hour window.”
Glen had a blood clot in one of his main vessels feeding his brain and was immediately taken to the Interventional Neuroradiology operating room for thrombectomy.
Dr. Szeder through a tiny needle incision in Glen’s upper thigh accessed the femoral artery — a large artery in the thigh — and navigated a small tube, called a catheter, all the way to the site of his blood clot in the brain. The plan was to pull the clot out and restore the blood flow to his brain.
Fortunately, as Dr. Szeder approached the clot, it dissolved into small pieces allowing blood to flow to his brain. Suddenly, Glen started to feel much better and his symptoms improved.
It was determined his stroke resulted from atrial fibrillation (AFib) and a recent COVID-19 diagnosis. With AFib, blood may not be properly pumped out of the heart, causing it to pool and form a clot, triggering a stroke. Another possible factor in Glen’s case was a COVID-19 diagnosis from a few weeks prior to his stroke.
“We cannot confirm if Glen’s stroke is connected to COVID-19,” says Angie West, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, SCRN, ANVP, director, Comprehensive Stroke Center, Long Beach Medical Center. “Evidence supports that COVID-19 patients are predisposed to clotting.”
Studies show that the virus triggers production of antibodies that circulate through the blood, thickening the blood and causing clots. Glen received aspirin to stop blood from clotting, and apixaban, which is also used to thin blood. Glen was discharged before Christmas.
“It was the best holiday gift,” says Glen. “I owe my recovery to the care team, their excellent care and my faith.”
It’s important to know that time lost is brain lost so every minute counts. Learn the signs and symptoms by using the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T.
B: Balance – sudden loss of balance and coordination
E: Eyes – sudden trouble seeing or blurred vision
F: Face drooping – face drooping on one side or numbness
A: Arm or leg weakness – numbness especially on one side of the body
S: Speech difficulty – sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
T: Time – stroke is a medical emergency, call 911 immediately and note the time of the first symptom
Learn more at memorialcare.org/BeFast.
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