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Friends for Life

Darlene Peterkin (left) and
Reese Penn of Philadelphia

Darlene Peterkin (and Reese and Abington)

In May 2007, 49-year-old Darlene Peterkin developed a headache of epic proportions. She took some ibuprofen and returned to her post as an officer for the Philadelphia Court System.

By the weekend things grew much worse.

She was slipping in and out of consciousness, throwing up and sweating profusely, but answered her phone when it rang. "It was Reese, my best friend since eighth grade," Darlene says. "We call each other every Saturday morning." Reese didn't like the way Darlene sounded, and rushed to her friend's side, then drove her to Abington's Emergency Trauma Center.

Darlene had suffered a brain aneurysm. When a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the space around the brain, a "subarachnoid hemorrhage" occurs. The hemorrhage led to a stroke.

When she was stabilized, the neurosurgical team took over. Steven J. Barrer, M.D., chief, Neurosurgery and Robert A. Koenigsberg, D.O., a neuroradiologist, inserted a catheter into Darlene's femoral artery and up to her brain. Under fluoroscopic imaging, Dr. Koenigsberg navigated a tiny platinum tube through the catheter, up to the point of rupture. The tube then coiled to fill the bulge and block any further expansion or recurrence.

Abington Memorial Hospital is one of the few hospitals in the area that perform this minimally invasive emergency repair of ruptured aneurysms. Most hospitals only perform "craniotomies," surgically removing half the skull to reach the affected area within the brain. With "endovascular coiling," Abington patients benefit from minimal anesthesia and precise "access" directly to the aneurysm. There is no incision into the skull or brain tissue thereby facilitating a safer and quicker recovery time. This leading edge technology is also used pre-emptively to prevent aneurysms from bursting, if the condition is detected fortuitously on a brain scan.

Darlene does not remember all the critical pieces of her ordeal, but she knows what was important: "where I went, it made a difference." And she laughs, "Reese tells me we talked about how cute one intern was."

Now retired, Darlene feels "blessed" by Abington's doctors and nurses - especially the "heavenly" nurses of the Surgical Trauma Unit (STU).

Darlene adds: "My body was just shutting down on me. Like many people, I didn't recognize the signs of a stroke.

"I owe Reese and Abington my life."

That's what friends are for.

For information about the Stroke Center at Abington Memorial Hospital, or for a free bookmark or DVD about symptoms of stroke visit or call our physician referral service, 215-481-MEDI.

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