Code Brain: After Stroke Care
Dec 29, 2021 Cedars-Sinai Staff
The day started like any other. Suzanne Torchia got up and made a cup of coffee, a routine familiar to millions of other people as they get ready for work. Except for what happened next.
She dropped her cup and fell to the floor, unable to move. "I couldn't get up," she recalls.
She had suffered a left middle cerebral artery (MCA) stroke, and her symptoms were dramatic, says Dr. Shlee Song, director of Cedars-Sinai's Comprehensive Stroke Center. The faster she could get help, the better chances of surviving and preserving functions such as movement and speech.
The phrase "time is brain" is often used to capture the urgency of a stroke, because the longer the brain is deprived of oxygenated blood, the greater the risk of severe outcomes and death.
"I'm glad she is in my life too, because she inspires all of us to keep going."
Each of the brain's two MCA arteries, which come in a symmetrical pair, affects the opposing side: a stroke in the left MCA leads to damage on the right side of the body, which is what happened to Suzanne. They also supply large areas in the brain that involve speech, audio and sensory information such as taste and temperature. The results can be catastrophic.
Dr. Song and her team mobilized rapidly when Suzanne was brought to the Emergency Department.
A crowd of doctors surrounded the patient. She was quicky given a clot-busting drug while an interventional team got ready to go in and remove the clot.
Suzanne remembers a young doctor asking her if she could move to straighten her left leg. Amid the fear and confusion of a life-threatening event, the doctor's demeanor made all the difference.
"It felt like he was reaching out to me in a very human and compassionate way," she recalls. That feeling continued throughout her experience at Cedars-Sinai. Suzanne never felt alone. Dr. Song was always there and so was the whole Comprehensive Stroke team of neurologists, rehabilitation specialists and other experts.
Suzanne's experience shows why Cedars-Sinai is in the top tier of the region's stroke-intervention facilities. A rapid-response team can make all the difference for a condition as time-sensitive as a stroke. The goal is to achieve the best possible outcome by combining advanced technology and treatments with a personalized approach that emphasizes compassion and long-term wellbeing.
Dr. Song explains that means getting to know the patient and understanding what matters to them, so they can create a recovery plan to help them get back to things they want to do.
Describing her feelings about the people who saved her life, Suzanne says: "It's beyond gratitude. It's something bigger than that." Throughout her interview, she shows no lingering signs of slurred speech. The gratitude is mutual. "I'm glad she is in my life too," says Dr. Song, "because she inspires all of us to keep going."