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When Every Minute Matters

Stroke survivor Damesha Seawood.

A stroke is devastating, with an incredibly short window for treatment. Within minutes, brain cells die. Each minute from when symptoms begin until treatment is initiated means more brain damage and the likelihood of permanent disability.

Damesha Seawood arrived at The University of Kansas Health System 8 hours after experiencing a stroke. Unable to speak clearly and paralyzed on her right side, Damesha faced a poor prognosis.

A healthy 37-year-old, Damesha never expected a fall could damage an artery in her neck and cause a stroke. So when her boyfriend called to check on her several hours after she fell at home on the morning of November 17, 2013, he was shocked at her response.

"He said I was stuttering, slurring, my words were jumbled," says Damesha. "No one could understand what I was saying."

Her boyfriend called Damesha's son for help. Her son came over immediately and called 911. The ambulance took her straight to The University of Kansas Health System's Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center.

Stroke survivor Damesha Seawood.

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Advanced treatment

Typical treatments for stroke include tPA, a drug given intravenously to break down blood clots, and removing clots through a minimally invasive endovascular procedure. In most cases, these treatments have to be initiated much earlier than 8 hours after symptoms begin.

However, using advanced imaging technology called CT perfusion, interventional neurologist Michael Abraham, MD, examined Damesha's brain and determined that she had great backup circulation. Dr. Abraham decided removing the clot could potentially allow her to achieve a good recovery even so late after the start of the symptoms.

"Six years ago, we would not have been able to treat someone after 8 hours," says Dr. Abraham. The concern was that too much brain tissue had suffered damage, and it would be unsafe to open the blocked artery.

Dr. Abraham navigated a catheter through Damesha's femoral artery in her right thigh to her neck and brain. Then, using a stent retriever, he removed the clot that caused her stroke. The entire procedure took approximately 40 minutes.

Following the treatment, Damesha faced a long road to recovery, but with a far better outlook than before. Severely speech impaired and paralyzed on her right side, she underwent speech and physical therapy for 6 months. Today, she can walk, talk and drive.

"Her recovery has been remarkable," says Dr. Abraham.

Damesha is thankful for the expert care she received at The University of Kansas Health System.

"In those first months, it was hard for me to get up and move around," she says. "Everyone was so nice about helping me and kept me informed about what was going on."

She continues to make progress, proving how resilient the brain is when given advanced treatment and focused rehabilitation.


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