Seventy-year-old Harry Glen Sterling was eating a bowl of cereal, watching
the morning news when his wife Charlene noticed his lips looked funny,
his left side was limp and he was slurring his words.
She jumped into action, and within 10 minutes, the Kentwood Fire Department
and Acadian Ambulance answered Mrs. Sterling’s plea for help. They
confirmed her fear that he was having a stroke, and called on Acadian’s
helicopter to airlift Sterling from his home in the rural community of
Tangipahoa to North Oaks Medical Center in Hammond.
Meanwhile, Interventional Radiology Supervisor Roger Rivet was consulting
with Interventional Radiologist Zachary Liner, MD, who was at North Oaks
Livingston Parish Medical Complex in Satsuma – 30 miles from the
medical center. Dr. Liner decided that Sterling was a candidate for intracranial
mechanical thrombectomy, a minimally invasive procedure that saves lives
by restoring blood flow to the brain after a stroke.
The thrombectomy, combined with the quick action by all involved -- including
Sterling’s wife, the first responders, Dr. Liner and his team --
may have saved his life and almost certainly prevented debilitating outcomes
North Oaks is the only hospital on the Northshore performing this lifesaving
procedure. A Hammond native, Dr. Liner joined North Oaks Imaging Associates
in August 2017, bringing with him a unique set of skills that offer patients
nonsurgical, ground-breaking treatment for strokes and aneurysms like
Stroke is the world’s No. 2 cause of death and a leading cause of
disability. Patients have traditionally been treated with plasminogen
activator (tPA), a clot-busting drug that must be used within 4½
hours to be effective.
The window for success with thrombectomy is wider. Ideally, the procedure
should be done within six hours of onset of acute stroke symptoms. For
some patients under certain conditions, it can still be effective if done
within 24 hours.
During the thrombectomy, trained doctors use a wire cage device called
a stent retriever to remove a large blood clot. Doctors thread a catheter
through an artery in the groin up to the blocked artery in the brain.
The stent opens and grabs the clot, allowing doctors to then remove the
stent with the trapped clot.
“Most importantly, it gives patients a better chance to regain movement,
speech and other abilities,” Dr. Liner explains.
In Sterling’s case, once he arrived at North Oaks, a CT scan was
conducted to locate the clot, and soon the thrombectomy was underway.
According to Rivet, the procedure took about 53 minutes.
When he awoke, Sterling showed no visible signs of the stroke, even mentioning
his appetite and inviting the medical team to his house for ribs. And,
just two days later, Sterling was back at home with his wife of 30 years.
“He’s been such a miracle,” she adds, sharing that he
is also a prostate cancer survivor and a dialysis patient.
The Sterlings are grateful to Dr. Liner and the team that performed the
thrombectomy, though he remembers only parts of the events that transpired,
including Dr. Liner’s explanation of the procedure.
“He talked like he was fishing. He went up there and hooked that
clot,” Sterling shares. “North Oaks is No. 1 in my book, from
the receptionist to the doctors. Everyone!”
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