Swift action

May 1, 2024

When it comes to treating a stroke, “time is of the essence,” says Adi Iyer, M.D., a leading neurosurgeon at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center. “Every minute, approximately two million neurons in the brain can die.”

This stark reality underscores the urgency that defines stroke care—a race against time where swift action can mean the difference between life and paralysis, or even death.

For Corazon Chua, a peaceful morning on her patio last August suddenly turned into a battle for survival when she was overwhelmed by a wave of dizziness. Before she could react, a stroke seized her consciousness, causing her to fall to the ground. But thanks to the quick thinking of her daughter, Cherylle “Che” Dela Fuente, a nurse at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, Chua’s journey through stroke care began with the knowledge that “time is brain.”

Dela Fuente was at work at the time, but her sons were alerted by their barking dogs and found their 80-year-old grandmother on the floor. They helped her up, then immediately contacted their mother, who, thankfully, is very familiar with the signs of stroke. When she learned her mother was conscious but unresponsive, she knew every second counted.

Without hesitation, she instructed her sons to call 911 immediately and moved quickly to ensure that her mother would receive the emergency care she needed. Soon Chua was in an ambulance on her way to Providence Holy Cross, a Comprehensive Stroke Center and one of the busiest thrombectomy-capable centers in the San Fernando Valley.

“When we got to the hospital, there were all these people waiting—they were ready for us,” Dela Fuente says.

Chua remembers most of this experience as well, saying she felt confused and afraid as paramedics put her on a stretcher and transported her to the hospital.

“I wanted to shout, but no words would come out from my mouth,” she says. “When we got to the hospital I thought, ‘Why did they bring me here? Why are there so many people around me? I feel like a movie star!’ ”

Chua was swiftly evaluated by the emergency room team, which ordered a CT perfusion scan to assess the extent of brain damage caused by reduced blood flow.

“If we find enough areas that can be saved, we can offer treatment, which is retrieval of the clot,” Dr. Iyer says, explaining that Chua had a blood clot obstructing blood flow in her brain.

“In Corazon’s case, the damage was very small, and the brain tissue that was at risk of damage was very large,” he says. “If we had not acted quickly enough, it could have been much worse.”

Thankfully, the lifesaving thrombectomy procedure Dr. Iyer performed on Chua can be done relatively quickly, usually within 30 minutes.

“Every minute counts,” he emphasizes. “The goal of a thrombectomy is to salvage as much brain tissue as possible and improve the patient’s outcome.”

With Dela Fuente’s consent, Chua was taken to the angio suite, where Dr. Iyer swiftly made a puncture in an artery in her leg. Using X-rays as a guide, he and his team carefully maneuvered a series of catheters and wires through her arteries, ultimately reaching the clot lodged in her brain. With precision, they deployed specialized devices to extract the clot, swiftly restoring blood flow and minimizing brain damage from the stroke.

After the thrombectomy, Dr. Iyer informed Dela Fuente of its success, and Chua was sent straight to the intensive care unit to recover.

Dela Fuente spent the night with her mother, monitoring her and doing her own assessments using the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS).

“She was a little confused and disoriented … In the beginning, her speech was a little slurred, but then there was improvement,” Dela Fuente says. “It was such an emotional day—it was all so sudden.”

By the following day, Chua was talking normally again and able to walk. Her daughter says she has been doing great since returning home, staying active and going to her senior center a couple of times a week. Given her increased risk of having another stroke, they check her blood pressure daily and she sees her primary doctor on a regular basis.

Reflecting on their experience, Dela Fuente expressed her newfound appreciation for the hospital’s resources and the dedicated team that swiftly attended to her mother’s needs. She admitted it’s easy to become desensitized when you’re immersed in the routine of hospital work. While she regularly hears words of appreciation from the families she cares for, it was only when confronted with her own family’s medical crisis that she realized the true depth of her gratitude.

“I didn’t realize just how good our hospital is, not until that happened,” Dela Fuente reflects. “You just don’t appreciate it fully until a family member is taken care of … I saw the importance of a great hospital—a great team— and the resources Providence Holy Cross provided. And I’m forever grateful.”

Chua also expresses deep appreciation for her daughter’s compassionate care and for the entire medical staff.

“I’m so grateful for the hospital and all the staff caring for me in the time I needed it most,” she says. “If not for Providence Holy Cross, I maybe would not be in the world.”

The experience has left an indelible mark on both Chua and her family, underscoring the importance of timely and expert care in moments of crisis. At Providence Holy Cross, every stroke patient is given the same unwavering commitment to excellence and compassion. With a comprehensive range of advanced treatments, the medical center offers innovative solutions with lower complication rates and a multidisciplinary team to ensure each patient receives personalized and effective treatment. 

With an emphasis on quality and compassion, Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is honored to provide award-winning stroke care. Our medical center is certified as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by DNV GL Healthcare, the international gold standard in recognizing the highest level of treatment for complex stroke cases. Learn more about our stroke care by calling 844-510-4325.

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