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Summer 2010 - A Walking Warning to Others

H2H - Summer 2010

FAST: Know the
Symptoms of Stroke

· Facial weakness/drooping
· A rm or leg weakness
· S peech problems/slurring
· T ime — Time is brain.

Call 911 immediately for
emergency medical assistance.

As a photographer, 45-year-old Rob Tomlinson is used to focusing on others through his camera lens. After a trip overseas to visit family and friends, Tomlinson’s focus quickly shifted to himself when he suffered a stroke.

Tomlinson awoke at 3 a.m. with a headache. “I was pouring a glass of water, and I dropped the glass,” he said. “I felt my body go lame on one side.” Tomlinson tried to pick up the broken glass but couldn’t. He shouted for his wife, Connie. When she noticed his condition, including his slurred speech, she called 911.

A Cary resident, Tomlinson was initially tested and treated at WakeMed Cary Hospital. Lucky for him and other residents in the area, WakeMed Cary Hospital as well as WakeMed Raleigh Campus are nationally certified Primary Stroke Centers.

Tomlinson was then taken by WakeMed Mobile Critical Care Services to WakeMed Raleigh Campus, where interventional cardiologist Ravish Sachar, MD, of Wake Heart & Vascular Associates, used a Merci Retriever® to extract the clot that tests revealed was blocking blood fl ow to Tomlinson’s brain. Tomlinson had a congenital condition called patent foramen ovale (PFO). Commonly referred to as a hole in the heart, PFO occurs when the atrial septum does not close at birth.“When a patient has PFO, a clot can travel directly to the brain and cause a stroke, which is what happened in Mr. Tomlinson’s case,” explained Dr. Sachar.

Tests also revealed that a number of factors — including Tomlinson’s long flight from Europe back to the United States — contributed to the formation of a clot in his leg (deep vein thrombosis), which traveled to his brain and caused a stroke.

“All total, our trip from Switzerland to Raleigh took 15 hours,” recounts Tomlinson. “Our fl ights were packed, and, with my backpack under the seat in front of me, I was cramped. It was hot, and, in hindsight, I know I didn’t drink enough water or move around enough. You tend to stay put in your seat when you know you will disturb others when trying to get up. Also, a storm kept us waiting in the plane at the Philadelphia airport, which didn’t help matters.”

Thanks to the quick, skillful hands of the Stroke Teams at both WakeMed Cary Hospital and the Raleigh Campus, Tomlinson spent just three days in the hospital. After two weeks, he was back to work. And he was told that any side effects he had would resolve themselves through normal activity — no therapy required.

“I never thought anything like this could happen to me,” said Tomlinson, who has run in 25 marathons, bikes regularly, enjoys only an occasional beer, has never smoked and maintains a healthy diet. “I guess I am a walking warning to others that a stroke can happen to anyone if the conditions are right.”