Expert Care Prevented Linda’s Massive Stroke
Sudden numbness of the face. Confusion. Trouble speaking. Loss of balance. As Linda Campa was learning about these stroke symptoms in a job orientation, she lost vision in her left eye.
“My eye felt droopy but looked normal in the mirror. Is this what a stroke feels like? It didn’t add up. I’m young, eat well and walk five times a week,” Linda says.
That night, the 38-year-old surgical technician from San Pedro made dinner for her sons, despite a severe headache. The following morning at work, Linda’s right arm went numb.
Frightened, she went to a nearby hospital. Doctors determined she had a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or “mini-stroke.” A TIA occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked for a short amount of time. The restricted blood flow to that area of the brain may lead to temporary symptoms such as slurred speech or blurry vision. To prevent another blood clot formation that could cause another TIA or stroke, Linda was given a blood-thinning medication. A few days later, Linda woke up with a numb arm and face.
“I was back at the hospital. The staff explained the gravity of my situation. This was my second event in a matter of days. I was transferred to Long Beach Medical Center because their stroke specialists are among the best in the area,” Linda recalls.
Upon arrival at the Long Beach Medical Center Comprehensive Stroke Center, an MRI test confirmed that Linda was having a stroke.
Realities at Hand
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States, killing nearly 130,000 people each year. Many assume that healthy individuals are not susceptible to stroke.
“Stroke can strike anyone, at anytime, at any age. Linda’s story is a powerful reminder of this,” says Satoshi Tateshima, MD, interventional neuroradiologist, Comprehensive Stroke Center, Long Beach Medical Center, and associate professor of interventional neuroradiology, University of California, Los Angeles.
After experiencing a stroke, preventing a recurrent stroke is critical. The National Stroke Association reports that about 5 to 14 percent of people who have a stroke this year will have a second one.
“Stroke prevention is also key for those with a history of TIA. TIAs are warning signs of an impending stroke. The statistics are staggering: up to 40 percent of people with a TIA are expected to have a stroke,” says Dr. Tateshima.
A stroke happens when a blood clot or burst blood vessel disrupts normal blood and oxygen flow to the brain. With every minute that passes, approximately two million brain cells die, increasing risk of permanent brain damage, disability or death.
The stroke team discovered the underlying cause of Linda’s stroke – a rare medical disorder known as fibromuscular dysplasia (FMD), where fibrous tissue in the walls of the arteries causes narrowing. As a result, blood flow through the arteries decreases. The stroke care team quickly recommended Linda undergo a minimally-invasive treatment by the Division of Interventional Neuroradiology (DINR) team at Long Beach Medical Center.
“With FMD, even normal activity could cause damage to the artery,” says Dr. Tateshima. “Linda’s left carotid artery had a tear. Blood was collecting and blocking the flow to her brain. We had to take immediate action.”
Dr. Satoshi Tateshima, and the DINR team, used a minimally-invasive image-guided technique to place a stent, or a small “mesh cage,” through the artery in Linda’s groin. He then guided the device up the blood vessels in her neck where he placed the stent in the damaged artery in her brain, preventing Linda from having a full-blown massive stroke.
Continuum of Care
Fortunately for patients like Linda, Long Beach Medical Center serves as a Joint Commission-Certified Primary Stroke Receiving Center for Los Angeles County. Innovative treatments, advanced technology and a specialized multi-disciplinary stroke team comprised of neurologists, neurosurgeons, stroke nurses and interventional neuroradiologists are available around the clock, 24-hours-a-day.
“We live by the saying ‘time is brain.’ Any delay in stroke diagnosis can be fatal or cause lifelong impairment,” says Dr. Tateshima. “With Linda, our DINR team placed a stent to open the blocked artery. Our expertise allowed for rapid response, an accurate diagnosis and life-saving intervention to prevent her from having a massive stroke,” says Dr. Tateshima.
Path to Healing
Linda went home after just two days. She returned to work two months later. She is now back to caring for her sons and spending time with friends. She still walks regularly, but listens to her body as she regains her strength. These days, Linda tells everyone the importance of recognizing the signs and symptoms of stroke.
“When I lost vision, I blamed stress. I shouldn’t have delayed seeking help. Now I know better,” says Linda. “In my heart, I know if it wasn’t for Dr. Tateshima and the care team at Long Beach Medical Center, I wouldn’t be here,” says Linda.