Medical team solves stroke puzzle for grateful patient
Randy Horn knows the signs of stroke. A retired paramedic, he has seen his share of victims.
When he experienced his own stroke in November 2012, however, he didn’t realize what was happening.
“I woke up in the morning and just didn’t feel well,” Horn said. “I grabbed a muffin and I couldn’t chew it really well. I went to the bathroom and it was hard to get there. I brushed my teeth and water ran down the side of my face, and still, it just wasn’t clicking.”
His wife, Jackie, decided to drive her husband to an emergency department near their California home. Medical staff recognized the situation immediately. Tests confirmed bleeding in Horn’s brain, but they could not detect the source. After five days, his symptoms resolved and he was discharged.
Unfortunately, his illness did not end there. New bleeding occurred, his right side weakened, and he was hospitalized with another stroke 11 days later. This time, doctors discovered a small clot. They gave their patient a shot of heparin to dissolve it.
“It worked. I survived,” said Horn, 53.
The next two months were difficult. Horn suffered multiple seizures and migraine headaches. That’s when he decided to get proactive. On a trip to visit family in Washington state, he tracked down his old doctor in Puyallup.
“I filled him in on what had happened and said we were going to be coming back and forth and that while I was here, I wanted him to be my primary care physician,” said Horn. “He said, ‘Of course, let’s get something set up with Good Samaritan Hospital in case something happens’.”
The doctor, Marc Aversa, worked with hospital neurologists, including Dr. Peter Kwon and Dr. Traci Ryan, and other medical staff, to better understand Horn’s condition and coordinate his ongoing care.
It was just as well Horn reached out: He and his wife happened to be with their Washington family again in September 2013, when he suffered a third stroke.
“I was waking him up from a nap,” Jackie Horn said. “He got up and sat on the edge of the bed but he wasn’t talking right. I thought, oh, no, get him to the hospital. Call 911!”
“It was the first time I’d lost speech,” said Horn. “Inability to tell my wife what was going on, inability to understand what she was saying to me. So Jackie got me to the Good Samaritan Emergency Department, and to me, this is where the rock stars came into play.”
Still unable to communicate, Horn was frightened his third stroke was about to kill him. But within moments, a nurse had taken him by wheelchair to get him the care he desperately needed.
“She got me into a room and on a table and then things started happening very quickly,” said Horn. “But they weren’t chaotic quick — it was organized. Everything was smooth and gelled and although I was afraid, I wasn’t getting more anxious or upset because they were keeping me calm.”
As he recovered in the hospital’s Critical Care Unit, Dr. Aversa checked on his patient twice a day.
“Everyone was talking with him and it was like there was a person in charge who knew me personally, who had a personal stake in me,” Horn said.
Dr. Aversa said Horn had a case of venous thrombosis, a less common stroke condition where veins, rather than arteries, become blocked.
“That’s hard to recognize. It really took a number of different doctors working together with him to work out what was happening and how to treat it,” said Dr. Aversa.
Today, Horn is on a new regiment of medications prescribed by his Good Samaritan Hospital doctors. Other than some residual weakness in his right leg and hand, he is well recovered and has been free of further strokes and seizures.
He said he wanted to thank Good Samaritan for providing the “flawless” teamwork he credits with saving his life.
“You think a little hospital in Puyallup when you think of Good Sam, but I’d rather get my care there than anywhere else,” Horn said.
“They are great people. I can’t praise them enough. The first ED nurse and the critical care nurse really went above and beyond in my eyes.”
Dr. Aversa said his patient’s prognosis is good.
“I do believe with the blood thinners that he’s now taking, we should be able to reduce the risk of something similar happening again,” he said. “He should do well.”