It was the Sunday before Easter, and Phenix City real estate agent Hillary Seymour was at home sitting on the porch talking to a friend. Suddenly, he was having difficulty picking up a soda can or getting a cigarette to his mouth.
"I was having a stroke, but didn't know it," he said. Seymour was told he needed to go to the hospital.
He asked, "Who's in the hospital?"
Soon after, Seymour was in an ambulance headed to Midtown Medical Center. When he arrived, there was paralysis on his right side.
"I was aware of others in the room, but that's it," he said.
He was told everyone w who needed to be in the room to help him was there. "He couldn't talk," recalled his doctor, Nishant de Quadros.
Today, you would not suspect the 67-year-old man had ever had a problem. He credits that to a procedure performed by de Quadros, a radiologist.
Seymour underwent an intra-arterial thrombectomy.
It is a relatively new process, just a few years old, used for ischemic stroke.
A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a weakened blood vessel ruptures and bleeds in the brain. An ischemic stroke happens when a blood vessel to the brain is blocked by a clot, which, if not removed quickly, may result in death or permanent paralysis.
The longer the brain does not receive the oxygen carried by the blood, the more brain cells are killed and more damage is done.
The doctor said 80 percent of strokes are ischemic.
In most cases, intravenous drugs can be delivered that dissolve the clot. Sometimes, more is needed. The doctor said that is usually when a large vessel is occluded. Such was the case with Seymour.
De Quadros said, the procedure must be done within six hours of acute stroke symptoms.
In the process, a thin catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin area via a very small incision and guided by radiological imaging methods to the blockage in the brain, he said. A smaller catheter with a stent is then run through that one. The retrievable stent attaches its wires to the clot, and then the clot is sucked out of the body through the groin. The blood flow to the brain returns.
The doctor said reports from five clinical trials published in the last year show a statistically significant improvement for patients with large vessel blockages who received the intra-arterial throbectomy in addition to the drugs rather than just the drugs alone.
Sometimes, there are no remaining signs at all.
"It has been proven to be very effective. We are giving back life," de Quadros said.
According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, killing more than 137,000 people per year.
Stroke can happen to anyone at anytime. Signs of a stroke are face drooping, arm weakness and difficulty speaking.
Risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and tobacco use. A person may also be at a higher risk if there is a family history.