When A Doctor Becomes The Patient – Emergency Physician Finds Himself On Receiving End Of Lifesaving Stroke Care
Stony Brook neurointerventionalist Dr. David Fiorella’s expertise saves 57-year old colleague’s life … and his career
Theodore Packy, M.D., a 25-year emergency medicine veteran practicing at Stony Brook University Hospital, is used to caring for people with signs and symptoms of stroke. However, in November 2011, unexpectedly, this doctor became the patient.
Two days before Thanksgiving, Dr. Packy felt fine and had no indication of a problem when he went to bed. He woke up the next day unable to speak normally or formulate sentences. He quickly realized he may have had a stroke or some other cerebrovascular event. His family promptly called for an ambulance and he was rushed to Stony Brook University Hospital’s Emergency Department.
Having been notified a Code BAT (possible stroke) was coming into the ED, a team was assembled and a quick assessment of Dr. Packy was made. This included CT imaging of his brain and heart. The imaging revealed a blockage in one of his cerebral arteries, the cause of an embolic stroke.
Dr. Packy was rushed into the Cerebrovascular and Stroke Center in the Department of Neurological Surgery, one of the 10 highly specialized centers of the Stony Brook University Neurosciences Institute.
Dr. David Fiorella, M.D., a neurointerventionalist in the Cerebrovascular and Stroke Center, immediately began to evaluate his colleague’s condition and found a clot blocking Dr. Packy’s left middle cerebral artery. Dr. Fiorella navigated small catheters into the clot to dissolve it with medications and aspirate the remaining pieces with suction. This procedure was effective in restoring blood flow to Dr. Packy’s brain.
Before his stroke, Dr. Packy had no major health conditions placing him at a high-risk for stroke, such as heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Dr. Packy says doctors believe his stroke may have been caused by an injury in his leg, in which a blood clot resulted and traveled to his brain; or an undiagnosed episode of atrial fibrillation, a common cause of an embolic stroke.
Fortunately for Dr. Packy, Dr. Fiorella and colleagues had the expertise, technology and support services to quickly treat him at Stony Brook’s Cerebrovascular and Stroke Center, one of only two Joint Commission-certified primary stroke centers in Suffolk County. The Center is the only healthcare facility in the county that provides endovascular treatment for stroke 24-7.
Removing the clot completely saved Dr. Packy’s life. The restored blood flow to Dr. Packy’s brain enabled him to recover from the event and return home the Saturday after Thanksgiving. However, Dr. Packy needed follow-up care and speech therapy for several months before returning to his normal physical and mental state. He returned to work in April 2012 and is back caring for stroke victims and other patients in Stony Brook’s ED.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month. The rapid and specialized care that Dr. Packy received at Stony Brook saved his life. He is one of the more fortunate of America’s estimated seven million stroke survivors, according to the American Stroke Association (ASA), many of whom suffer long-term adult disabilities after a stroke. Despite the annual death rate from stroke falling 35 percent (1998 to 2009), stroke remains the fourth leading cause of death in the United States.
The ASA estimates that stroke kills more than 133,000 people a year, and approximately 795,000 strokes will occur this year. On average, a stroke occurs every 40 seconds and takes a life every four minutes. The cost burden on the healthcare system also remains huge. The estimated direct and indirect cost of stroke in the U.S. for 2010 was $73.7 billion.
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