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“Stroke of luck” brings Davison man to McLaren Stroke Network

Published on Monday, October 31, 2016

Gerald Coleman reconnects with physical therapist, Nate Seibold, after lifesaving procedure at McLaren Flint.

“A stroke of luck” may be an odd way to describe a medical stroke, but in Gerald Coleman’s case, it fits. He was “lucky” enough to be at a fitness center with medical personnel on hand when he suffered an acute stroke on March 7, 2016. He was even more fortunate to be one of the first area patients to benefit from the McLaren Stroke Network’s telestroke technology and expertise. The McLaren Stroke Network is one of the only programs in the country that has Interventional Stroke Neurologists taking primary stroke call.  This early intervention leads to better outcomes for stroke patients, as Gerald Coleman quickly discovered.

The 71-year-old Davison resident was in the middle of his regular morning workout at the St. John-McLaren Wellness Center gym when his right arm went limp. Still pedaling on the exercise bicycle, his movements became slower and he started feeling dizzy. The next thing he knew, he lost his balance completely and fell off the bicycle.

“One of other gym members saw what was happening and ran to get me,” said Nate Seibold, McLaren Physical Therapist who was working at the Center. “I immediately suspected that Gerald was having a stroke. His speech was slurred, and it was evident his right side was affected. I told my colleague to call 9-1-1- and assisted Gerald until the ambulance came.”

Arriving quickly at the scene, paramedics immediately notified McLaren Flint’s Emergency Department about Gerald’s condition, got him on the stretcher and into the ambulance within minutes. The McLaren Emergency staff called a Stroke Alert, and emergency physician Dr. Brian Dugas and the McLaren stroke team were waiting to assess Gerald upon his arrival at the Emergency Room at 10:44 a.m. Once it was determined Gerald was suffering an acute stroke, the McLaren Stroke Network was activated, paging one of McLaren’s interventional neurologists to beam into the Emergency Department via specialized telestroke technology. Gerald was quickly taken for a CT scan, which showed a clot in the left middle cerebral artery of Gerald’s brain. When Gerald returned to the Emergency Department, interventional neurologist Dr. Aniel Majjhoo, a highly trained stroke specialist, was already on the telestroke monitor reviewing the CT scan results and consulting with Gerald and the on-site stroke team. TPA medication was ordered, and Dr. Majjhoo headed for McLaren Flint. By 11:45 a.m., he was at Gerald’s bedside, discussing the recommended plan of care with Gerald and his family. At noon, the NeuroTeam alert was activated, and Gerald was taken to a specialized procedure room, where Dr. Majjhoo performed a thrombectomy to successfully remove the clot.

“Mr. Coleman’s case is a prime example of how having specialists involved early in the care of stroke patients leads to excellent outcomes. McLaren Stroke Network’s telemedicine program enables specialty care and decision making at all the McLaren facilities across Michigan. Timely decisions for transfers for emergent surgeries is essential for better results.”
– Aniel Q. Majjhoo, MD,  
Medical Director, Neurosciences

When Gerald arrived at the Emergency Department, his National Institute of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score was 22. After the thrombectomy, his NIHSS score was 5 and within 24 hours, his score was 1. This stroke scale was developed to help physicians objectively rate severity of ischemic strokes, with higher scores indicating a more severe stroke. Patients with a total score of 4 or less generally have favorable clinical outcomes and have a high likelihood of functional independence.

“Mr. Coleman did exceptionally well,” noted Sue O’Brien, RN, MSN, ANVP, McLaren Flint Stroke Program Coordinator. “He was transferred from the Intensive Care Unit (where he was cared for by neuro critical care specialists) to the stroke unit within 24 hours. He was discharged home on March 10, with only a referral to the outpatient neuro rehab program to fine tune his speech.”

Gerald noted by the time he was through post-op and in his room in the ICU, he was talking and walking. And by his birthday on March 23, he was back at the St. John-McLaren Wellness Center gym, walking the track and talking with his friends.

Gerald credited many people with his excellent outcome…his workout buddy at the gym who got help fast; Nate, the physical therapist who called 9-1-1; the paramedics whose fast action initiated the stroke team alert; and the McLaren stroke team, Dr. Dugas and Dr. Majjhoo, whose expertise in assessing and quickly treating Gerald’s large vessel occlusion meant the difference between a life of disability and a life of active living.

“Everyone at McLaren was excellent,” he said. “The nurses taught me a lot about the medications I was taking, and everyone was focused on getting me to a place where I could function successfully when I went home. I honestly don’t think the staff and doctors could have treated me or my family any better.”

In sharing his story, Gerald stressed that it is less about him personally and more about the McLaren Stroke Network and what can happen when people work together and structures are in place to provide the best care and outcomes.

“I want to let people know the importance of getting to the hospital immediately if you think you are having a stroke,” he stressed. “I was lucky I went to McLaren Flint.”