A stroke is a sudden disruption in blood flow to the brain caused by a blockage or bleeding of a blood vessel. Brain damage can result within minutes, so immediate medical attention is crucial. Symptoms of a stroke come on suddenly and often include sudden numbness, tingling, weakness or loss of movement in the face, arm or leg, especially on only one side of your body. Other symptoms include sudden vision changes, trouble speaking or understanding simple statements, problems with walking or balance or severe headache.
On January 12, Kimble’s wife found him in front of their television, slurring his speech and unable to move his left leg and arm. As a nurse, she immediately recognized the stroke signs. She called 911 and told the paramedics to bring him directly to Bronson. “As soon as I rolled in the door, there must have been ten people all over me,” Kimble recalled. “The doctors said my carotid arteries were blocked and my left side wasn’t working at all. They moved so fast and they knew exactly what to do.”
This team approach is what makes the Bronson Neuroscience Center so unique, according to neurointerventional surgeon, Jeffrey Miller, MD. He specializes in diagnosing and treating cerebrovascular diseases. “There is a chain of information that needs to be passed along very quickly,” he explains. “You have to coordinate so many things and it’s impossible for one physician to do it alone. We have excellent emergency room nurses and doctors who quickly identify the problem and vascular neurologists who work with radiology to get the imaging we need within a few minutes. One of the reasons I came to Bronson was because we have such a strong team.”
Dr. Miller and the Bronson Neuroscience Center team quickly determined the best approach would be through minimally invasive, endovascular clot retrieval. This procedure uses miniature devices that are guided from the femoral artery into the arteries of the brain. This allows the clot to be grabbed with a corkscrew-like, “Merci device,” therefore restoring blood flow to the brain as quickly as possible. The tiny incisions resulting from this surgery are often no bigger than a nickel and patients recover at rapid speeds. This is far better than other procedures that require opening a patient’s skull or exposing the spinal column.
Dr. Miller’s highly specialized training and Bronson’s state-of-the art fluoroscopy imaging technology enabled him to see the brain’s blood vessels within minutes. In comparison, open surgery would have taken hours. Dr. Miller performed an intracranial mechanical clot thrombectomy to successfully remove the clot from Kimble’s brain. “Dr. Miller talked with me the whole time,” says Kimble. “We joked that I was stroking out, but I wasn’t even on the golf course!”
After his procedure, Mr. Kimble spent just three days in recovery. “Everybody was great,” he says. “You just whistle and somebody was right there. On the first day I couldn’t lift my arms to touch my nose, but by the time I left, I was able to talk and move my hands!”
Kimble was feeling pretty normal again in just a few days. He is now receiving physical therapy and says, “It’s like being a little kid learning how to do some things over again.” Nevertheless, he’s feeling good, and remarkably, the retiree was well enough to hop a plane to Hilton Head for a golf vacation, just six weeks after his stroke.
During his first follow-up visit, Dr. Miller showed Kimble a 3-D angiogram so he could watch the procedure that saved his life. Dr. Miller likes patients to have an idea of what’s going on in their body so they understand their condition. “When you show patients what happened, it solidifies it in a way words can’t. They can see that half of their brain wasn’t getting any blood, then the clot pulls out and the blood fills back up. It’s a more personal approach.”
“Just watching what Dr. Miller did was amazing,” said Kimble. “The staff at Bronson got me help in time and the people there knew what they were doing. Watching my surgery brought things to light about how truly amazing it is that somebody has that expertise. I would have been dead by now if I had gone somewhere else.”