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Mother of Three, Third Grade Teacher, Stroke Survivor
“I had never heard of Capital Health before,” Kathy Doyle says. “I’m blessed that I wound up there.”
At 36, Kathy Doyle was experiencing the joys of motherhood for the third time. A third grade teacher, all three pregnancies had been routine physically, and her most recent delivery had been in her words “good and quick.” Ten-year-old Max and seven-year-old Jack were adjusting to being big brothers to 2-week-old Molly.
With her in-laws visiting from Phoenix, Kathy and her husband Steve went for her two-week post-delivery check-up and then stopped for coffee from a local Dunkin Donuts. In the few minutes her husband was away from the car, Kathy experienced a horrific pain behind her right eye. By the time her husband returned to the car, she was leaning into the console, and as she describes it, “my left side had melted away.”
A police officer, Steve knew when he got into the car that his wife was not okay. By this point, her face was drooping, and she couldn’t move her left side. Just a few minutes from Southern Ocean County Hospital in Manahawkin, he immediately headed to the emergency room.
“I remember Steve calling my in-laws and hearing him say ‘Kathy’s having a stroke’,” she says. “I was thinking ‘no, I’m not, I just want to go home.’”
By the time they reached the hospital Kathy was “out of it.” She was given IV tPA and a CT scan was done. After receiving the results of the CT scan, the doctor in the emergency room told her husband that if she were his family member he would send her to Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center at Capital Health in Trenton.
“I had never heard of Capital Health before,” Doyle says. “I’m blessed that I wound up there.”
Her transfer was arranged directly with Capital Health neurosurgeon, and director of the center, Dr. Erol Veznedaroglu. A team was immediately mobilized and was waiting for her when she arrived. Upon arrival, Kathy was immediately prepped and an interventional angiogram was performed which indicated an occlusive clot in her right middle cerebral artery, which is the main artery supplying blood to the brain. Using a device called the Merci Retriever, Dr. Veznedaroglu, known to his patients as Dr. Vez, was able to remove the clot and restore blood flow to the artery. As a result she was alert, speaking, and moving her left side following the procedure.
In retrospect, Kathy says she had been having headaches the few days leading into the stroke, but attributed it to medication she was taking. And, she knew there was a family history of stroke but it had never scared her.
“The man saved my life,” says Doyle of Veznedaroglu. “And the nurses were wonderful and caring. I went in there hanging on to life—no feeling, no speech. And to wake up and have it come back….that’s why I feel blessed that I was in the right place.”
Moving forward, Doyle will continue to be monitored through the use of MRIs. For now, she is thoroughly enjoying her daughter’s emerging smiles.
“I have a new appreciation for everything,” she says when asked how the stroke has impacted her emotionally. “It makes me even more aware of how lucky I am. I feel extremely blessed…I have a great life.”