Neurosciences Patient Story: Matthew Gizelbach

Matthew Gizelbach runningMatthew Gizelbach is a man who takes care of himself. He watches what he eats, doesn’t smoke, and was training for a marathon when the inconceivable occurred.

After running for several years, this 41-year-old Project Manager for JP Morgan Chase decided to train for the Minnesota Marathon with his youngest brother. He steadily built up the miles until he reached Mile 14 – the longest distance he had ever run.

Later that day, he and then-fiancé, Jill, were listening to music at State Fair when the strange symptoms began. He was dizzy and had to sit down. When he rose, everything looked as though it was tilted 45 degrees. His speech was slurred, he experienced double vision and one side of his face was frozen.

Although the symptoms subsided quickly, he went straight to Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin. After an extensive work-up over the next few days, the diagnosis was delivered. Matthew had experienced a stroke.

The stroke was the symptom of a small hole in his heart that is a common and typically benign condition. In Matthew’s case, a blood clot passed through the hole to his brain.

The cause of a stroke is often undiagnosed by well-accepted screening methods. At Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, however, not knowing is not acceptable. “We don’t stop looking until we find it,” said Diane Book, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin neurologist and medical director of the Stroke and Neurovascular Program. “There are layers to explore. That’s what we’re good at.”

In addition, physicians at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin are working to identify risk factors that may lead to a second and potentially more serious stroke in patients with Matthew’s condition. There are two types of studies underway. One is observational, an analysis of characteristics of the condition and patient that may lead to a second stroke. The other is a clinical trial, which compares the impact of different treatments in a randomized, classical study that is conducted over a number of years.

“We see people in his age group, at the peak of their lives, with strokes all the time,” says Jeffrey Binder, MD, Medical College of Wisconsin neurologist. By evaluating risk factors and treatments, the study may ultimately benefit people like Matthew.

These clinical research trials and other studies enhance the quality of health care. Froedtert & the Medical College are among only 118 academic medical centers in the country. Academic medical centers are partnerships between a medical school and its affiliated teaching hospitals and clinics. This strong partnership — dedicated to excellence in patient care, research and medical education — has benefited patients, healthcare professionals and the region since 1980.

Matthew is participating in the clinical trial and has “nothing but praise for the hospital and staff.” When in their care following the stroke, he took comfort in their constant vigilance. “I never felt forgotten for even 30 minutes.”

That year, Matthew cheered his brother across the finish line of the Minnesota Marathon from the sidelines. The next year, he and his brother were back in training, to tackle that race together as they’d planned. As he approached Mile 14 in his training regimen, Jill, now his wife, was understandably anxious. “All I could think of was, what if it happens again – only worse?” But the training proceeded without a hitch and both Matthew and his brother, Alex, crossed the line at 26.2 miles.

This year, Matthew Gizelbach is in training for the Wisconsin Marathon. Thanks to Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, he’s still in the race.


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