Life-Saving Blood Clot Surgery Helps Stroke Patient’s Miraculous Recovery|
FORT WORTH, Texas — Jeremy Cockburn says it’s “God’s fortune” that he canceled a planned camping trip alone with his two kids, 3 and 6 years old, on May 11.
Instead, the 54-year-old was at home with his family when he started seeing double vision and speaking incoherently to his wife. Worried, she called 911 for help.
“I was walking and talking like Herman Munster,” Cockburn said. “I was awake, but I didn’t understand how severe I looked on the outside. I kept trying to respond to people and they weren’t hearing me.”
Cockburn was rushed by ambulance to the emergency department at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth. By the time he arrived, he couldn’t move the right side of his body or follow simple directions. On the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale, an assessment tool caregivers use to evaluate the severity of impairment from the stroke, a score of 20 is considered a severe stroke while a score of 40 is comatose. Cockburn scored a 33.
“He was close to death,” said Dr. Ronald Gerstle, an interventional radiologist on the medical staff at Texas Health Fort Worth. “He suffered a near-fatal stroke. When that happens, you try anything you can to get in and fix it. About 15 to 20 percent of the time, you get a good recovery.”
Cockburn’s wife, April, was told to prepare for the worst when he went in for a thrombectomy, an emergency blood clot removal procedure that would extract a large blockage from the base of his brain in the left vertebral artery. During a thrombectomy, a physician carefully guides a catheter through an artery in the groin up to the brain. Once the catheter is in place, a tiny mechanical device is used to break up or remove the clot. Typically, treatment of stroke patients involves administration of a clot-busting medication, but Cockburn’s stroke was so severe that it would not have been as effective, Gerstle said.
Twelve hours after he hit the door of the emergency department, Cockburn was up walking and talking without difficulty. His Stroke Scale score was now a 1.
“It’s not typical to see a stroke patient, especially one who experienced a stroke this severe, recover that quickly,” said Sheri Muska, stroke coordinator for Texas Health Fort Worth. “Normally you’d expect to see them in physical therapy for a long period afterward. He has done amazing. He is a miracle walking.”
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