Published on May 18, 2022

Duluthian thanks Essentia’s award-winning stroke-care team for saving his life

In early April, Bob Boman of Duluth was just a few weeks into retirement when he was blindsided.

“I woke up at about 6:30 in the morning because my back hurt,” said Bob. “I didn’t think anything of it because I had thrown it out recently and it had been bugging me for a while.”

Part of the reason for his ailing back was that, with more free time on his hands, he was much more active in retirement. He said he overdid it and threw his back out.

Bob and Dawn BomanBob took pain medicine and went back to bed, where he started to have difficulty moving and became very dizzy. He called out for his wife, Dawn, and within minutes could no longer speak.

Bob was having a stroke.

“Dawn is a nurse and she quickly understood that I was in serious distress and called 911,” said Bob, who spent 25 years working in medicine, including 15 as a hospitalist at Essentia.

Dawn spent 11 years as a registered nurse at Essentia. Her experience helped her determine that Bob was in need of immediate help. Bob believes her quick thinking helped him have a much better outcome.

Bob was rushed via ambulance to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center, where the stroke and interventional neurology team quickly affirmed the Bomans’ fears of a stroke. He was suffering a basilar artery occlusion stroke – one of the rarest and most deadly strokes, with a roughly 85% mortality rate. The St. Mary’s stroke team immediately conducted a CT scan and administered a clot-busting drug called alteplase.

“Things improved from there, but I still couldn’t speak, and my wife and I were making decisions with a series of hand squeezes,” Bob said. “I could understand her, but I couldn’t speak.”

Fortunately, Dr. Vikram Jadhav (Dr. Vic), an interventional neurologist, and his team were standing by ready to help. They brought Bob to St. Mary’s high-tech NASCAR room – which stands for Neuro Angio-Suite for Cerebral Arterial Reperfusion.

“I was in this powerless state, but I didn’t have a feeling of impending doom,” Bob said. “I had trust in this team of specialists and knew they would take care of me.”

Activating a “Code NASCAR,” they acted fast and performed what’s known as an emergent stroke thrombectomy, a procedure in which a catheter is inserted in a groin or arm artery and navigated with expert precision to the brain to remove potentially deadly blood clots.

“Dr. Vic was great,” Bob said. “I owe my life to the NASCAR suite and Dr. Vic and his team being so skilled with their craft and knowing exactly what to do when seconds mattered.”

Bob only spent about two days in the hospital for observation and testing. Now, not long after his stroke, he already feels back to 100% and has no lasting effects like loss of memory, speech, coordination or balance.

“I have a second shot at life now,” Bob said. “Without Essentia and the amazing tools and technologies they use to treat strokes, I might have survived, but I don’t think I would have had this positive of an outcome.”

Bob said he would encourage anyone who thinks they are having a stroke to call 911 immediately.

“Let the medical experts help you; that’s what they’re there for,” he said. “Don’t drive yourself, don’t brush it off as something it’s not. Strokes are serious business and need a high level of treatment.”

Settling back into retirement, Bob said he’s almost thankful for his ailing back.

“Even though it had nothing to do with my stroke, the back pain is what woke me up. If I had the stroke in my sleep and not been able to wake my wife up, who knows what might have happened,” he said.

Bob still has to have follow-up appointments for monitoring and bloodwork and is on a few medications. Fortunately, he said none of that limits his daily activities.

At Essentia, stroke thrombectomy treatment can be provided up to 24 hours from symptom onset, and in some cases longer. Done in a timely manner, stroke thrombectomy can prevent profound neurological deficits, such as paralysis, loss of language function, inability to speak or swallow and even death.

Dr. Vic says taking care of your body is one of the surest ways to prevent a stroke. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes are the leading causes of stroke, with one in three U.S. adults having at least one of these conditions or habits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Vic says it’s important to monitor your health and minimize risk factors by eating healthy and staying physically active. 

One of the surest ways to prevent long-term side effects associated with a stroke is to act fast when signs and symptoms occur. Symptoms include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, confusion or trouble speaking, loss of or blurry vision, dizziness and a sudden severe headache.

The acronym BEFAST is a useful tool:

Balance: Does the person have sudden loss of balance?

Eyes: Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?

Face: Smile. Does one side of the face droop?

Arms: Raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

Speech: Repeat a simple phrase. Is speech slurred or strange?

Time: If you observe any of these signs, it’s time to call 911 right away.

Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center’s Advanced Thrombectomy-Capable Stroke Center is a nationally accredited care unit. Certified by the Joint Commission, St. Mary’s is the only facility in the Northland certified to remove clots from blood vessels in the brain to re-establish blood flow. This certification requires that Essentia offer 24-7 stroke care with the most stringent standards.

Every year, about 795,000 people suffer a stroke. It’s an alarming trend that’s seeing one in every six deaths from cardiovascular disease attributed to a stroke.