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“One-two punch” saves Minnesota stroke victim

Mike DeMars was rushed to University of Minnesota Medical Center, where he underwent a neurothrombectomy.
Mike DeMars collapsed to the floor after suffering an ischemic stroke. A University of Minnesota Health care team rushed to save DeMars using a neurothrombectomy and specialized medication to break up the blood vessel blockage.

When Mike DeMars tried to get out of bed the morning of February 11, he ended up flat on his face. His wife, Kim, heard the thud and went to investigate.

“Mike was lying on the floor on his stomach,” Kim said. “When he looked up at me, I could see that the entire left side of his face was drooping and his speech was slurred.” In shock, Kim realized that Mike, a 50-year-old resident of Zimmerman, Minn., was having a stroke. She knew she had to keep him on the floor and called 911 right away.

Mike was lucky. Kim is a physical therapist at Fairview Northland Medical Center in Princeton, Minn. Her training, coupled with the fact that Mike’s fall happened about 25 minutes before she usually left the house for work, meant that he would get the help he needed in time.

Learn more about stroke signs and symptoms.

EMTs arrived, examined Mike, and then rushed him to the Fairview hospital in Princeton. Brain scans done there revealed a sizeable clot in Mike’s carotid artery. The scans also showed half of the right side of Mike’s brain had no blood flow to it. Mike was taken by helicopter to University of Minnesota Medical Center, where he underwent a minimally invasive procedure called a neurothrombectomy.

Improved procedure allows for quicker recovery, less rehab
Certain stroke patients—the majority, in fact—have a stroke because a clot, called a thrombus, has blocked one of the vessels supplying blood to the brain. This is known as an ischemic stroke. A neurothrombectomy can help many of these patients, if they get to the hospital on time.

The thrombectomy is usually part of a “one-two punch” that care providers administer to break up the clot and restore blood flow. First, specialists give the patient a “clot-busting” medication known as t-PA, followed by the neurthrombectomy itself.

During Mike’s procedure, Neuro-radiologist Bharathi Jagadeesan, MD, put a small catheter into Mike’s femoral artery and ran it up to the blood vessel in his brain that contained the clot. Once there, the team inserted a small device called a “stent retriever.”

“We pass the stent-retriever through the catheter and let it sit in the vessel for three to five minutes,” Jagadeesan said. “That allows the meshing of the stent to catch the clot, like a net catches a fish, and then we slowly remove it. You literally fish a clot out of the patient’s blood vessel.”

Recent study results released during the International Stroke Conference in February 2015 touted the effectiveness of this one-two punch. When Jagadeesan uses this approach on his own stroke patients, he notes that they recover more quickly, require less rehab and incur fewer chronic care costs.

“That’s a win-win for everyone,” Jagadeesan said.

Mike DeMars would agree.

Learn more about our stroke care at University of Minnesota Medical Center.

Following the procedure, Mike felt great and wanted to go home right away, but he still had mobility issues with the left side of his body (the clot was on the right side of his brain). He was sent to University of Minnesota Health physical medicine and rehabilitation specialists, who helped him begin to recover full use of his left arm, leg and hand.

University of Minnesota Medical Center a “great place to go”
Mike left the hospital, February 27 and has regained 75 percent of his pre-stroke function, though he still gets tired easily. As the owner of Trencher Guy Utilities, a small electrical construction business, the fatigue can be challenging.

“I have someone come along to help me with the driving,” he said.

As Kim monitors her husband’s progress, she believes that what they say about stroke is true. “Don’t waste any time,” she said. “Don’t question anything, just get help. It’s so important to get the right people involved and let them determine what’s going on and why.”

Both Kim and Mike were impressed by the confidence that their Fairview Northland team had in University of Minnesota Medical Center. “How right they were,” she said. “It was definitely a great place to go.”