Michael Campbell and his girlfriend, Veneasha Youngblood, had planned for a quiet night in with pizza and a movie. But when Michael, 55, suddenly felt unsteady on his feet and then could not speak, plans changed. Veneasha called 911 because she thought Michael was having a stroke.
“I had a feeling something wasn’t right,” Veneasha said. “But when we got home and I said ‘Michael are you OK?’ and he couldn’t communicate back, I knew it was time to call 911.”
“I wasn’t feeling well and I just couldn’t answer her,” Michael said. “I remember bits and pieces but it is mostly all a blur after that.”
Seamless Coordination of Care
Michael was transported by ambulance to Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin Community Memorial Hospital Emergency Department in Menomonee Falls. His symptoms included a facial droop, paralysis of his right arm and leg and the inability to speak. Pre-notification from emergency responders set the hospital team in motion. This ensured that upon arrival, Michael would be taken immediately for a CT scan.
“The scan showed no evidence of a bleed or tumor, but it did show evidence of a large clot,” said Dennis Shepherd, MD, emergency medicine physician. “Time was critical. We made the decision to give Michael tPA, or tissue plasminogen activator, a clot-busting medication.”
Michael received tPA within 31 minutes of his arrival at Community Memorial Hospital, much quicker than the minimum standard from the American Heart Association, which is to administer tPA within 60 minutes of the patient’s arrival.
Michael’s stroke was so severe that Dr. Shepherd consulted with the neurology team at Froedtert & MCW Froedtert Hospital. Interventional neurologist and MCW faculty member John Lynch, MD, determined Michael was a candidate for a thrombectomy, a procedure to retrieve the clot and restore blood flow to the brain.
“Our approach is successful because it brings everyone together — emergency responders, radiology, pharmacy, emergency department and neurology — in an effort to get the patient tPA as quickly as we can because time is brain,” Dr. Shepherd said.
Teamwork Leads to Lifesaving Procedure
Michael was transported by ambulance to the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Froedtert Hospital and went straight to the angiography suite. Dr. Lynch’s team did a perfusion imaging scan of Michael’s brain that showed the clot in his left cerebral cortex, the part of the brain that involves language and motor skills.
“The scan showed a large amount of salvageable brain tissue around the clot so we proceeded with the thrombectomy,” Dr. Lynch said. During a thrombectomy, the clot is retrieved, restoring blood flow to the brain.
Michael’s CT scan at Community Memorial Hospital was at 9:06 p.m. Dr. Lynch had retrieved the clot by 10:30 p.m.
“Doing the scans and administering tPA takes time, plus we transported the patient from one hospital to another for more specialized care, so this was extremely fast,” Dr. Lynch said. “This type of seamless handoff, from emergency responders to hospital and within the hospital system, has taken years to develop and requires an immense amount of coordination and infrastructure. It was truly a team effort that led to the positive outcome.”
Michael went home from the hospital three days after the stroke. He was back to his healthy self — except for some minor speech problems that resolved with speech therapy. He is back to work as a sanitation supervisor for the City of Milwaukee and is grateful to have his life back.
“It’s really remarkable how I had full function of my right side when I was discharged from the hospital,” Michael said. “Veneasha knew what to do and so did everyone else. Since the stroke, I switched all of my medical care over to the Froedtert & MCW health network. I trust the doctors to take excellent care of me.”