A New Lease on Life
Fred Fleming's life was saved with a transcarotid artery revascularization (TCAR) procedure at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center
Fred Fleming was driving home with his family from Idaho where his grandson had been playing basketball when he started slurring his words. “Pull off the road and park,” his daughter Jill told him. He exited the highway and came to a stop in a parking lot. Fred didn’t realize what was happening, but his family recognized the symptoms.
Fred, 71, was taken to the emergency department (ED) at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where it was confirmed that he had suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA).
A TIA is a sudden, short-term loss of blood flow to the brain, disrupting oxygen supply. Although it’s not classified as a stroke, a TIA produces symptoms of a stroke, except they disappear within minutes to an hour.
Carotid Artery Disease Diagnosis
While undergoing tests at Sacred Heart, Fred’s care team discovered additional information – a complete blockage in his left carotid artery and 80% blockage in his right artery, the main blood vessels that send blood and oxygen to the brain.
With no lasting symptoms, the care team prescribed Fred an aggressive treatment plan that required a combination of medications to help reduce his risk of a stroke, as he prepared for an innovative vascular surgery to remove the blockage in both arteries.
Thankful on Thanksgiving
Several days later, while loading the car with dishes to take to his son’s home for Thanksgiving dinner, Fred fell and had difficulty getting up. He was able to get back into the house, but his wife Vicki knew something
was wrong. “He was having a hard time using his right hand,” she says.
At the Sacred Heart ED, Fred was admitted to the hospital for further evaluation but his symptoms worsened the next morning. He was slurring his words again and couldn’t move the fingers on his right hand. Fred was immediately taken to the procedural suite where Jayson Brower, M.D., interventional radiologist with Inland Imaging PS, was able to grasp and remove a large clot. Dr. Brower accomplished this by performing an embolectomy, a procedure that required the insertion of a small catheter inside the artery, which removed the blood clot and immediately restored blood flow to the brain.
The next thing Fred remembered was being gently woken up in recovery. He wiggled his fingers. “I could use my hand perfectly,” he says. Fred’s surgeon showed him a photo of the clot, the biggest one he’d ever removed from a patient’s brain.
“The procedures went very well,” says Cynthia Murphy, M.D., lead vascular neurologist at Providence Spokane Neuroscience Institute. “It was a true team effort to get his arteries open.”
TCAR Procedure Addresses Cause of Strokes
Less than a month after the clot was removed from his brain, Fred returned to Sacred Heart for a TCAR procedure on his left carotid artery to address the cause of the strokes. A TCAR (transcarotid artery revascularization) is a minimally invasive procedure that requires opening the artery through a small incision on the base of the neck. A stent is put in place to trap plaque, keeping the pathway open for blood flow to the brain.
Providence vascular surgeon, Luke X. Zhan, M.D., Ph.D., performed the procedure on Fred’s left carotid artery, and then his right carotid artery a month later.
Fred quickly recovered from both procedures and noticed a marked difference in his health. “It was like I had a new lease on life,” he says. “I’m grateful. Every time I tell this story I’m aware of the miracle I experienced.”
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