A Stroke of Luck: Care at the Right Time and Right Place Saves 47-Year Old’s Life
When Elise Sheridan felt her hand become tingly and numb late one evening, a stroke was the last thing on her mind. She and her husband, James, had just settled down to watch television after putting their two daughters, ages 10 and 13, to bed on the night before the first day of school. The 47-year-old chalked the tingling sensation up to the migraine headaches she sometimes experienced. But James, noticing that the left side of her face had become droopy and she was having difficulty moving the left side of her body, knew that something far more serious was going on.
“I kept insisting that he not call an ambulance,” she said. “But he didn’t listen.” That decision likely saved Elise’s life.
The ambulance brought Elise from her Wantagh home to St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage, where doctors diagnosed her with a life-threatening stroke, stabilized her and swiftly sent her to the Stroke and Brain Aneurysm Center of Long Island at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center, the only Joint Commission Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center in the South Shore of Long Island.
Before Elise even arrived at Good Sam, the specialized stroke team was mobilized and assembled.
“This involves at least 10 individuals”, says Jason Wallen, RT, the lead Radiation Technologist of the center.
“The system is extremely well organized,” explained Kimon Bekelis, MD, Director of the Center. “When a stroke happens, the team is notified right way and we go to the hospital and wait for the patient to arrive.”
The Stroke and Brain Aneurysm Center has the highest distinction nationally in quality of stroke care. Its staff includes neuro-interventionalists, neuro-intensivists and intensive care trained nurses and support staff. It is equipped with specialized imaging called CT perfusion which yields detailed images of the brain, allowing the team to assess how much damage has already occurred so they can make appropriate treatment decisions.
In Elise’s case, imaging showed that the damage to her brain was still minimal, although a clot remained and brain tissue was at risk of dying if the clot was not removed. Elise was a prime candidate for a procedure called mechanical thrombectomy. In this minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Bekelis threads a catheter through the groin up through a blood vessel to the brain. Once in place, a suction device at the tip of the catheter pulls the clot out of the brain.
Elise awoke from the procedure to Dr. Bekelis congratulating her on coming through with flying colors.
“Stroke care has changed,” Dr. Bekelis said. “We now have procedures that change people’s lives.”
But he emphasized that time is still critical.
“To achieve great outcomes as we did with Elise, that initial recognition period makes all the difference in the world,” said Dr. Bekelis. “Time is brain. The faster you recognize the symptoms of stroke and get care, the better you will do.”
Dr. Bekelis also emphasized the importance of getting to a hospital that is staffed and equipped to provide the sophisticated care that saved Elise’s life. St. Joseph Hospital in Bethpage, where Elise was initially assessed, is a member of Catholic Health Services, as is Good Samaritan. This enabled Elise to be seamlessly transferred to Good Sam, where the Stroke and Brain Aneurysm Center offers the most advanced approaches available to diagnose and treat stroke patients. Good Sam was the first hospital in Suffolk County to open a Neuro-Intensive Care Unit, where patients receive highly specialized care as they begin their recovery from stroke-related procedures.
Seven months after her stroke, Elise says she is almost the same person as she was before the stroke. The only deficit that remains is that she can’t snap the fingers on her left hand as well as she once could. And to her, that is nothing short of a miracle.
“Not many people in the country can do what Dr. Bekelis is doing,” Elise said. “I’m incredibly grateful that the people at St. Joseph’s knew to send me to Good Sam, where I would get the best help, and I’m very fortunate that Dr. Bekelis was there.”