Wife's quick thinking saved Michigan man who was having a stroke

Author: Leslie Toldo

After spending a typical October evening together, Laszlo Kappel told his wife, Lisa, he was ready to turn in. Just a couple minutes later, Lisa went to the bedroom and kissed Laszlo goodnight.  

“He didn’t kiss me back or say anything,” Lisa said.

A wave of terror came over Lisa as she turned on the light. What she saw, she said, stopped her cold. 

“He was lying there. His whole left side was paralyzed, and his face was asymmetrical,” Lisa said. “I couldn’t believe it, but I knew Laz was having a stroke.”

Without hesitation, Lisa, a nurse practitioner specializing in internal medicine, called 911. When paramedics arrived, she immediately told paramedics to take Laszlo to McLaren Flint because she knew it was the area’s first Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center

McLaren Flint is among an elite group of healthcare organizations nationwide to receive advanced certification from the American Heart and Stroke Associations. To be eligible, hospitals must offer advanced imaging, specialized treatments, and staff educated in complex stroke care. First certified in 2016, McLaren just completed its second three-year recertification.

“I called ahead and told them we were on the way,” Lisa said. “When we got there, the team was waiting for us. They took Laszlo for a CT scan.” 

Imaging revealed Laszlo suffered a right middle cerebral artery (MCA) stroke. The McLaren Flint stroke team treated Laszlo with tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) to break down the large blood clot in his brain. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, if given within three hours after stroke onset, tPA helps restore blood flow to the parts of the brain affected by a stroke, limiting damage to the brain.

Because he had a large blood clot in his main cerebral artery, Laszlo also had a mechanical thrombectomy to remove the clot.

“This is done in the Cath lab, using devices threaded up to the brain through a catheter, placed in the patient’s groin,” said McLaren Interventional Neurologist Dr. Bharath Naravetla. “Most often, we see improvement in the patient’s condition as soon as we remove the clot, which is very rewarding.” 

“We were so impressed with everything the stroke team did,” Lisa said. “The nurses were so great, really empathetic.”

The support was helping Lisa keep it together. She was struggling to understand how her husband, a fitness buff with no history of high blood pressure or serious health issues, was now fighting his way back from a stroke.

“It was so surreal. I was like, ‘This is not happening,’” Lisa said. “I was blown away that this man who is my rock and my protector was in this condition.”

Twelve days into his recovery, the stroke team determined Laszlo needed another procedure. Swelling in his brain was interfering with Laszlo’s progress.

“Medical management was unsuccessful, and he required a craniectomy,” Dr. Naravetla said. “The craniectomy is a neurosurgical procedure where a portion of the skull is removed to relieve the pressure on the brain.”

A day after neurosurgeon Dr. Idara Edem performed the craniectomy, Lisa said her husband turned the corner, “They took him off the ventilator. He started moving his left leg more, and the asymmetry in his face and his speech were improving. Shortly after, he went to inpatient rehab.”

Lisa said she is grateful for every step forward on Laszlo’s road to recovery. Strides made possible, she said, by the entire McLaren Flint stroke team. 

“The whole team, from the moment we walked in the door, from them waiting by the door to everyone who cared for him, I felt like my own family was there taking care of him,” Lisa said. 

Both the inpatient and outpatient physical and occupational therapy teams have also played a tremendous role in Laszlo’s recovery, Lisa said. 

“They have been so professional, and, more importantly, they have approached us with such compassion and empathy,” Lisa said.

Without her medical training, Lisa might not have realized Laszlo was suffering stroke symptoms.  They are warning signs she says everyone should know.  The American Stroke Association says it is as easy as remembering “BE FAST”:

  • Balance. Does the person have a sudden loss of balance?
  • Eyes. Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?
  • Face.  One side of the face may be drooping or not moving. 
  • Arms.  Can the person raise both arms? Is one arm weak?
  • Speech. Is the person’s speech slurred or garbled? 
  • Time.  Call 911 right away at the first sign of a stroke. 

Every second counts with a stroke. Time lost is potential brain loss.  

Find out why McLaren Flint’s Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center may be the best option for you or a loved one suffering a stroke, at mclaren.org/flintstroke.