Stroke Survivor Series: Blood Clot Removal
Part four of the Stroke Survivor Series
The helicopter transporting you arrives swiftly at its destination. As the medical team ushers you into the sterile, brightly lit operating room, a mixture of anxiety and hope fills the air. You lie on the operating table, surrounded by a giant wall of monitors and the scent of antiseptic.
The interventional neuroradiologist approaches you, their calm demeanor providing reassurance in this critical moment. He explains the procedure and gets started immediately. Time is of the essence. While he is getting ready, an anesthesiologist comes and speaks with you. “I’m going to give you some medicine that will make you sleep during the procedure. You won’t feel a thing.” She expertly holds a syringe filled with a white liquid and starts to push it into your IV. She asks you to start counting backwards from 10. You make it to 7 and don’t remember anything after that.
After confirming that you are sedated, the procedure begins. One of the nurses announces, “Start time is 8:15 PM.” With precision and expertise, a thin wire is delicately inserted into an artery near the groin where it will be guided towards the blocked blood vessel in your brain. A catheter follows closely, equipped with a stent retriever device designed to pick up the clot. The combination of contrast dye and the x-ray beam promptly reveal the intricate network of vessels on the monitors, allowing the physician to identify the exact location of the clot.
As the catheter is carefully deployed, anticipation builds, knowing that every passing second is crucial to salvaging brain tissue and potentially restoring lost functionality. The moment arrives. The stent retriever firmly engages with the clot, and a gentle tug begins. Slowly, the clot yields. The catheter is carefully withdrawn, taking with it the captured clot. The clot is not even half the size of a pencil eraser. It's shocking that such a small clot can have such devastating effects.
The physician shoots a couple more pictures using the contrast dye again. Finally, after making sure that blood is now flowing freely across the artery, the wire is withdrawn.
The medical team closely monitors your vital signs, ensuring stability and observing for any signs of complications. You slowly wake up from the sedation, the procedure seemingly over in a blink of an eye. You feel like you can move your right side a little better. The physician informs you that you will be sent to the ICU for further monitoring. “You did great, we’re going to take care of you. You’re in the right place” Exhausted and relieved, you are wheeled out of the operating room into the next phase of your care.