Stroke of Luck: One man’s story of how
his infant daughter – and tPA – saved his life
There was nothing unusual about Tom Liebenthal’s six week-old daughter, Madison, waking up in the night. It was, however, odd that she woke at 2 am – her parents had been blessed with a baby who slept until 5 or 6 a.m. before demanding to be fed. Today, Liebenthal credits his baby girl with saving his life, although she was aided by a mother who knew enough to call 911, and a hospital with a stroke team equipped to administer clot-busting drugs.
When he woke up with his daughter and wife, Liebenthal felt fine. Twenty minutes later, after nursing the baby, his wife found him in bed, unable to talk or move the right side of his body.
Although “stroke” did not cross her mind, Sarah Liebenthal knew something was very wrong and immediately called for help. Liebenthal says he remembers snatches of his trip to the hospital by ambulance, his arrival at the Froedtert & Medical College Emergency Center and his examination by Diane Book, MD, stroke neurologist on call and acute stroke team member. “When I couldn’t remember my daughter’s name, I was devastated,” recalls Liebenthal.
Within an hour, Liebenthal had been given tPA, a clot-busting drug that stops strokes in progress. An hour later, he was speaking in full sentences, and by that afternoon he had regained complete feeling and movement on his right side. A week later, he was back at his job as a deputy sheriff for the Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Department.
Froedtert & Medical College specialists determined that Liebenthal’s stroke was caused by a hole in his heart that had caused a blood clot, which traveled to his brain. Later, he underwent a new angioplasty-based surgical procedure to repair the hole.
“I was lucky my little angel woke up when she did. And I was extremely lucky to live near a cutting-edge hospital staffed with excellent doctors and nurses who are up to date in the latest techniques,” says Liebenthal.
The Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) recently launched a new certification for primary stroke centers across the country. The certification recognizes hospitals that meet national quality standards for stroke care. This certification signals to emergency medical services professionals which hospitals meet acute care standards for stroke treatment. According to the American Stroke Association, the initiative will improve care for stroke patients and ultimately reduce disability and death. Froedtert & Medical College was one of the first in the nation to apply as an “early adopter” for this certification in February 2004.