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Ischemic Stroke is No Match for GBMC Patient

May 20, 2015
Strokes can occur at any given moment and can be frightening. They usually occur when a blood vessel leading to the brain bursts (hemorrhagic stroke) or is blocked by a blood clot (ischemic stroke). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year, costing the country an estimated $36.5 billion annually.

Baltimore resident Carol Pijanowski unfortunately had an ischemic stroke last summer, and was rushed by her husband, Don, to GBMC’s Emergency Department for treatment. “I was experiencing all of the major symptoms of a stroke like dizziness, double vision, blurred vision and my left side was feeling numb,” explains Mrs. Pijanowski. “My neighbor noticed the symptoms and informed my husband, who took quick action.”

At GBMC, Mrs. Pijanowski was treated with Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA), which dissolves blood clots after being injected. This medication helps to significantly reduce disability from a stroke but does not decrease a patient’s chance of having another stroke in the future.

“After I was given the shot, I had a complete turnaround of my symptoms,” says Mrs. Pijanowski.

“Within 24 hours, my mobility and sight came back. It was like the stroke never happened! My family and friends still can’t believe I had one.”
James Bernheimer, MD, Medical Director of the Primary Stroke Center at GBMC, says that there are some uncontrollable factors that contribute to having a stroke such as age, sex, race and previous stroke or heart attack. However, there are many risk factors that can be controlled. He advises people to watch their blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking and eating habits to decrease the likelihood of having a stroke.

Dr. James Bernheimer
Dr. James Bernheimer
“The best thing to do when you experience unusual sensations such as a sudden numbness or weakness on one side, confusion or trouble speaking, dizziness or trouble with your vision is to call 911 or be taken to a hospital immediately,” says Dr. Bernheimer. “Three things that accurately indicate a person is having a stroke are drooping of one side of the face, inability to hold up the arm on that side and slurred speech. When someone has these symptoms, it is best for a doctor to treat the patient as soon as possible.” GBMC is recognized as a Primary Stroke Center by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medicine Services Systems (MIEMSS) and is dedicated to providing care and education for stroke patients, their families and the community.

Today, Mrs. Pijanowski is monitoring her cholesterol and blood pressure as well as eating a healthy diet. Performing simple tasks like these can help lower her risk of having another stroke. “Thanks to Dr. Bernheimer and his stroke team at GBMC, I am still able to do the things I enjoy like caring for my neighbor’s children during the day, cooking for my family and spending time with my three granddaughters.”

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