World-Class Neurological Care Close to Home

May 1, 2019

After 16 years working as a nurse on the stroke unit at Mission Hospital, Bernadette Espiritu, 45, never imagined she’d become a patient herself. But in February of 2016, while eating breakfast during her morning break at the hospital, Bernadette’s arm went numb.

“At first I thought it was just my carpel tunnel acting up,” said Bernadette. “But when the feeling didn’t go away after a few minutes, my co-workers performed a neurological assessment and got me to the emergency room immediately.”

While Bernadette was well trained on the signs of a stroke and what to look for, until then she never knew what it felt like. CAT and CT scans confirmed she had a small blood clot in her carotid artery and had in fact suffered a stroke. After spending a night in the hospital and suffering a second stroke the next day, doctors decided to perform surgery to remove plaque buildup and restore blood flow to her artery.

“Thanks to the quick thinking of my co-workers, the quality care and rehabilitation therapy I received at Mission Hospital, I’m nearly 100 percent recovered and am so happy to be back to work caring for patients going through similar situations as me,” Bernadette said less than a year after her incident.

Fortunately for Bernadette and others in south Orange County, the Mission Neuroscience Institute (MNI) offers world-class care and expertise close to home, with the most advanced neurosurgery and rehabilitation services available. The institute recently applied for Comprehensive Stroke Center designation, which is the highest level that can be achieved by a stroke program.

“By becoming a Comprehensive Stroke Center, we will be establishing standards of excellence and best practices that directly impact patients’ lives through the full spectrum of stroke care — diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation and education,” said Annabelle Braun, MSN, RN, NE-BC, executive director, MNI. “This is just one way we are continually seeking innovation to provide outstanding, high-value care to the communities we serve and beyond.” Bernadette happened to already be in the hospital when her stroke occurred, but you don’t have to be a nurse to know the signs that saved her life. According to Joey Gee, DO, chair and director of neuromedicine and stroke services at MNI, “Time is brain — the more time that goes by that you don’t initiate treatments, the less likelihood of a good recovery.”

Dr. Gee says to recognize the signs of stroke by looking for a droopy face, one arm drifting downward when you try to raise both arms above your head, and/or slurred speech. “Our goal is to spread the word about the signs of stroke and encourage you to call 9-1-1 immediately if you experience any of those symptoms,” he said.

Caring for the Patient and Family

Stroke care is just one of the conditions treated at the Mission Neuroscience Institute. With several board certified neurosurgeons and neurologists and a multidisciplinary staff dedicated to neurosciences, our state-of-the-art facilities are equipped with the latest advanced technologies to provide complete and comprehensive services for patients dealing with spine or brain tumor treatment, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and much more.

The design of MNI’s institute was made with patients in mind, placing all the aspects of neurological care into a single, cutting-edge facility. “With the focus exclusively on neurosciences, MNI’s commitment to working together offers patients a depth of expertise rarely found in one medical institution,” Braun said.

For patients like Pablo Ocampo, 65, of San Juan Capistrano, that expertise goes beyond just a hospital stay. Having been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease more than 10 years ago, Pablo and his sons, Esteban and Roberto, have relied on Dr. Gee and the neurosciences team at Mission Hospital to get through many difficult, life-altering decisions. Prior to his Parkinson’s diagnosis, Pablo worked at Mission Hospital in Nutritional Care Services for 25 years.

“Our family has learned how important it is to have a good relationship with your doctor and care team,” said Esteban, a Mission Hospital employee for 17 years. “Whether it be a health emergency or just a question about medication, we’re glad to know that no matter what, we can talk to our doctor any time about our needs.”

Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, affecting at least 7,000 people in Orange County. As the disease progresses, symptoms appear gradually and slowly get worse. Everyone with Parkinson’s has different symptoms, but the most identifiable one  relates to movement called motor symptoms such as tremors.

“We strive to not only make the diagnosis, but also support our patients and their families during a time when life as they know it is changing,” said Dr. Gee. “We understand that conditions such as Parkinson’s affect not only the patient, but the family as well. It’s important that we provide the resources to help them live life to the fullest.”

When you or a loved one needs neurological treatment, it can feel intimidating and overwhelming. Whether it’s the onset of a stroke, the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease or another neurologic disorder, at Mission Hospital our family is caring for your family, and our community fuels our desire to provide world class, compassionate care for all of our patients.

For more information on MNI and the conditions our physicians treat, visit

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