May 4, 2017 | If his family had waited just half an hour more, the prognosis for 91-year-old Wayne Harris would not have been promising.
One Saturday afternoon in early March, Cathy Harris was sorting clothes while her husband of 35 years was finishing a meal.
“I could see him at the table and he was fine,” Harris said. “When I finished sorting the clothes, I told him I was about to take a shower.”
She’d glanced at the clock to see it was 1:30 p.m. Harris, a former school teacher, says she’s always good about keeping time and making a record. But she didn’t realize how important a detail her mental note would prove to be later that day.
Wayne Harris didn’t respond to her announcement. His silence grabbed her attention.
“He always answers,” Harris said of the World War II veteran and retired banker. “I turned to look at him directly. And when I did, he was slumped over in the chair. It was just that quick. He didn’t make a sound.”
Harris says her husband’s eyes were opened but not focused. He never lost consciousness. He was slumped backwards in his chair and slightly to the right.
“You’re scaring me, Wayne.”
Harris says in the past whenever she talked about calling an ambulance, Wayne Harris would object vehemently. He’d rather be taken in a car.
“I used the magic word. I said, ‘If you don’t answer me, I’m calling an ambulance.’ He didn’t respond.”
Harris made the call. It wasn’t long before they arrived at UAMS. Benedict Tan, M.D., an assistant professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Neurology, says her very detailed account of what happened may have saved her husband’s life.
The treatment known as tPA or, tissue plasminogen activator, is used to dissolve the clot and improve blood flow to the brain. While it can be life-saving if administered up to three hours after the onset of stroke symptoms, after that time frame the risk of intracranial bleeding is too great, making it essential to document the timing.
“Dr. Amole and I would not have felt comfortable proceeding with the interventional treatment if the family was not able to confirm the timing so confidently,” Tan said. “It was well-documented and accurate and that helped us make our decision to administer tPA and remove the clot.”
Afterward, a guide wire was inserted into the brain to remove the remaining clot to completely restore blood flow.
Wayne Harris has regained his strength and is back to walking with his walker and cane. Cathy Harris is glad she was home when it happened.
“I was supposed to be in Fayetteville that day,” she said. “I ended up not going because my best friend of 45 years was losing her mother. I was sorting clothes because I was preparing to go to Blytheville to be with her. What if I’d been gone?”
This case, Tan said, highlights the fact that timing is critical when it comes to stroke patients. It took less than an hour from the time Harris noticed her husband slumped in his chair to the time he was given the clot buster and had the rest of the clot removed by Amole, M.D., an interventional neuroradiologist and associate professor in the College of Medicine Department of Radiology.
“The treatment has been wonderful,” Harris said. “Dr. Tan was by to see us every day even though we were no longer in his area, which is the ICU. The nurses were wonderful. The care on the floor was wonderful. Of course I knew that already, because I volunteer at UAMS.”