Quick Action and Advanced Extraction Stops a Stroke in Its Tracks
A recovered Lori Goodz revisits
Grand View’s Emergency
Department in December 2013.
“I’m fine.” Those were the last words Lori Goodz, 53, remembers saying just before she had a massive stroke that could have killed her or left her severely debilitated. Instead, she walked out of Abington Memorial Hospital one week later. By then, she truly was fine, thanks to the quick thinking of the people who got her to Abington Health’s Comprehensive Stroke Center just in time.
In retrospect, Lori realizes that she hadn’t been feeling well for almost a month. “I’d been very tired, and my blood pressure had been low,” she recalls. She attributed these symptoms to her atrial fibrillation, a heart rhythm disorder that she’d been diagnosed with almost four years earlier. In atrial fibrillation, the heart’s upper chambers, or atria, do not pump effectively, which can cause palpitations, shortness of breath and fatigue.
Lori knew that atrial fibrillation also increased her risk of stroke. Blood could pool in her atria, creating clots, which could travel to her brain. But she’d been vigilant about seeing her cardiologist and was taking a blood-thinning medication that would help keep clots from forming, so she thought she was well protected.
Unbeknownst to her, however, a clot had developed despite those precautions, traveling silently through her bloodstream until it lodged firmly in her right middle cerebral artery (whether the clot had formed in her heart is not certain, however). That’s when it started to make its presence known.
A Sudden Strike
Around 5:15 PM on October 16, 2013, Lori started feeling winded and disoriented after climbing a flight of stairs to leave the doctor’s office where she is a medical coder. While walking to her car, she dropped her purse, and a passer-by asked if she was okay. That’s when she lost her footing and fell. Co-workers came to her rescue; one was a medical assistant who recognized stroke-like symptoms, and 911 was called.
The next thing she knew, she was waking up at Grand View Hospital, which is fortunately just across the street from her office. By this time, she was unable to speak clearly or move her left side.
The emergency room doctors told her that because she was on blood thinning medication for atrial fibrillation, she wouldn’t be eligible for rT-PA, the gold-standard “clot busting” drug. She’d need to have the clot removed another way.
An Endovascular Approach
Lori was bundled into a medical helicopter and flown to the Diamond Stroke Center at Abington Memorial Hospital, where Interventional Neurologist Osman S. Kozak, MD, was waiting. He immediately put her at ease.
“Dr. Kozak was very calm and comforting,” Lori says. “He said that, yes, I did have a clot in my brain, but he had a new device that could just, as he put it, ‘pluck it out.’”
The new tool was the 5MaxTM Ace clot extraction device, a kind of miniature vacuum cleaner for clots. After inserting a catheter in Lori’s femoral artery in her groin, Dr. Kozak maneuvered the device, using real-time x-ray guidance, all the way up to her brain to the site of the clot. He then activated the suction power and aspirated it away.
“The effects were almost instantaneous,” Dr. Kozak recalls. “Lori was actually awake during the procedure, and about a minute after the clot was gone, she asked me when I was going to remove it. I told her, ‘It’s already done!’”
Lori left the hospital about a week later, after being closely monitored and starting rehabilitation. Apart from some mild slurring of her speech when she’s tired, she’s had no lasting effects. “It couldn’t have worked out better for me,” she says. “I know that I’m lucky to be upright and alive, and I’m so grateful to my ‘heroes’ at Abington Memorial Hospital.”