For physical education teacher Mary Anne Flory, it was a normal day running errands after work. She had stopped by her local bank and was patiently waiting in line for the next available teller when things suddenly changed.
“As I was writing a check, I started to feel heavy and then fell,” Flory said. Another bank customer, who happened to be a nurse, immediately rushed to her side and noticed Flory was numb. She had just suffered a stroke.
Paramedics were dispatched to the bank and Mary Anne was taken to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital. When she arrived to the Emergency Center doctors administered tPA – tissue plasminogen activator. tPA is a medication that dissolves blood clots and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1997 to treat ischemic-type strokes.
According to the American Stroke Association, eight out of 10 brain attacks/strokes are ischemic, involving a blockage of blood flow in the brain. When given promptly, one out of every three patients who receives the tPA medication experiences major improvement in his or her stroke symptoms, or the symptoms sometimes resolve altogether.
For Flory, the timing of when she received the medication was critical. “I immediately felt a difference after receiving the medication,” she said. When she arrived at Memorial Hermann Southwest, Dr. Joseph Cochran, a neurosurgeon with Mischer Neuroscience Associates – Southwest, thought Mary Anne might need to have a thrombectomy, a type of surgery that removes a large blood clot from an artery or vein to restore normal blood flow. Once in the operating room, however, Dr. Cochran realized that was not necessary.
“Mary Anne receiving the tPA as soon as she arrived to the hospital and within a good time frame from the onset of her stroke symptoms was important because she did not need to have emergency surgery,” said Dr. Cochran. “Research has shown that when administered within the first hour of the onset of stroke symptoms, tPA can reduce the amount of time it will take to treat a patient.”
In collaboration with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, Memorial Hermann was one of the first health systems in the nation to test tPA in a clinical trial that led to changes in stroke management. On average, about 5 percent of stroke patients get tPA in a timely fashion. In the Houston area, that rate is about 20 percent.
Flory spent two nights at Memorial Hermann Southwest, the first in the Intensive Care Unit. By the second day, she was walking around the hospital. “I’m very appreciative of Dr. Cochran’s treatment and also of him calling my daughter in New York to put her at ease,” said Flory.
Three weeks after her stroke, Flory was able to return to work doing what she enjoys, teaching elementary students about the importance of physical activity. She has a new commitment to her health and has increased her exercise to an extra 30 minutes a day. She’s even lost 10 pounds since being discharged from the hospital.
“Prior to my stroke, I would consider myself slightly overweight and I was only active with my students,” Flory said. “Now, I know firsthand the importance of reducing my risks of having a stroke.”
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