Minutes Matter for Stroke Treatment


A grateful patient and the basics about stroke.

When it comes to treating stroke patients, minutes can be the difference between life and death. When Joel Bautista arrived at the Providence Holy Cross Medical Center ER last summer, the fast-acting team in the Comprehensive Stroke Center saved his life.

Bautista, of Santa Clarita, had been feeling dizzy for a few weeks, but he shrugged it off. The 49 year-old has always been active and likes to exercise, and on the morning of August 21, when he woke up with a headache, he decided to work out on the treadmill anyway.

“I thought I would just keep going and sweat it off,” he says. But suddenly the dizziness got much worse and he stumbled off the machine. While his neighbor drove him to the nearest hospital, all he could think of was that he had contracted COVID-19.

In the ER he was given a lot of tests, including a CT scan, and while he waited for the results, Bautista chatted with the nurses. Then one nurse approached him and said, “We don’t know why you’re alive and talking,” he remembers. He was having a stroke, and they arranged to transport him by ambulance to Providence Holy Cross Medical Center because of its designation as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. A nurse named Melody accompanied him, and watched his face intently during the entire short ride.

“I was talking to her, and as the ambulance backed up into Providence Holy Cross, I yawned,” remembers Bautista. “Then I could not talk or move anymore. I looked at Melody and she knew exactly what was happening. She said, ‘Don’t worry, we got you, we’re going to help you.’ ” The ambulance door opened and Bautista saw a medical team waiting for him. Then everything moved very quickly. 

After assessing the situation, the stroke team rushed Bautista to the Catherterization Lab. “I sensed commotion, but I had to leave it up to God at that point,” he recalls. 

Bautista later learned that Adi Iyer, MD, had removed a clot in the basilar artery of his brain with a technique called interventional radiology. And he found out just how close he’d come to dying.

Dr. Iyer explained everything that had happened and tracked Bautista’s follow-up care closely. 

“I was not a number,” says Bautista. “I had the best team in the world. I am so thankful. Dr. Iyer is an absolutely phenomenal person.”

Bautista remained in the ICU for three days and went home a few days after that. He has returned to doing all his normal activities, including exercise—but he continues to be a bit wary of traveling too far from home, or Holy Cross. He did pay a visit to Melody, the nurse who watched over him in the ambulance, to thank her. “She gave me a hug and said, ‘You’re a walking miracle.’ I am so lucky that Providence Holy Cross was there.”

Photography by: Matthew Smith

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