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A Stroke of Good Fortune

Keith Baker and family 

"It was August 10 – a day I'll never forget," says Keith. "Dr. Fireman had just admitted me for a cardiac workup." As a nursing student and emergency room technician at a suburban hospital, Keith uses medical terminology easily.

"As soon as I lay back on the exam table, I couldn't speak or move. I didn't know what was happening. There was a sea of faces all around me."

"Keith suffered a massive stroke right in front of me," says Dr. Fireman. "His whole right side was paralyzed. I called for Abington's Medical Emergency Team to assist me. Patrick Visek, RN, a team member from the ICU, called Dr. Shah on his cell while we were attending to Keith. He caught the neurologist just as he was leaving for the day."

"AMH is the first non-university-based
hospital in the area to provide this
expanded level of minimally invasive,
intra-arterial thrombolytic care."

Qaisar Shah, MD, is a neurointerventional neurologist with Abington. He specializes in performing highly complex intracranial and neuroendovascular techniques to treat stroke, aneurysms, and other brain illnesses. Within minutes, Keith was inside the CT scanner.

Dr. Shah was able to visualize the blood clot in Keith's brain. The artery was completely blocked, and because he had been on blood-thinners, he could not administer the clot-dissolving drug, rTPA.

The "window" between when a stroke patient begins having symptoms (or silent symptoms) and when "clot busters" like rTPA can be used is about three hours. But thanks to the advanced skills of neurointerventionalists like Dr. Shah, the drug can be introduced intra-arterially into a clot that has reached the brain. In fact, the window can be extended from three to almost eight hours with this leading edge intervention or to treat patients like Keith, who are excluded from receiving intravenous rTPA.

Abington is the first non-university-based hospital in the area to provide this expanded level of minimally invasive, intra-arterial thrombolytic care 24/7. 

Dr. Shah says, "We moved Keith to the Catheterization Lab right away. The situation was so serious that I called his wife in to see him before we started. It was an emotional moment."

Keith was still unable to speak, though conscious. Lakeisha Baker kissed her husband tenderly. Then she rushed through the door so the specialists could begin. Dr. Shah made a tiny incision in Keith's groin, and threaded a thin catheter through the artery leading up to the brain and then injected the rTPA directly into the clot. Each step was highlighted on a specialized computer screen. The clot began to dissolve.

"As the clot dissipated and blood flow began to restore, Keith began babbling," Dr. Shah recalls. "Slowly, he began moving his right side. Suddenly he said, ‘What am I doing here?'"

"It was amazing," says Keith. "I went from being frozen to talking and moving again. I thank God for Dr. Fireman and Dr. Shah. They were both there for me and Dr. Shah helped make sure I had no damage from the stroke. I recovered 100 percent."

AMH is the first non-university-based hospital in the area to provide this expanded level of minimally invasive, intra-arterial thrombolytic care.

"Keith wanted to go home the next day, but we kept him, as we do all such patients, in the hospital for further monitoring. We can do so much today to minimize or eliminate the damage from stroke in far less invasive ways," explains Dr. Shah.

For Keith and his wife, the parents of four sons, life has never seemed so precious. "From now on, I'm going to be a very vocal advocate for knowing the warning signs of stroke," Keith concludes. "And urge people to continue to look for the right doctors if you aren't feeling better.

"I couldn't wait to get back to work and to nursing school. I can show my healthcare colleagues that I am living proof of being in the right place at the right time."

For more information about stroke and services at Abington Memorial Hospital, visit www.amh.org/stroke or call 215-481-MEDI.


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