Innovative stroke procedure at Essentia Health saves Northland woman’s life

May 02, 2024  By: Anthony Matt

Kari Budge

May is National Stroke Awareness Month

The morning of Nov. 11, 2022, started out like most for 59-year-old Kari Budge — on the porch with coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other.

For weeks Kari had been experiencing blurry vision and dizziness. When she went back inside, she felt a sudden, hot pain moving up her neck, culminating in a "thunderclap" headache.

"I called my daughter Erin immediately; I knew something wasn't right," said the resident of Webster, Wisconsin.

The last thing she remembers is saying "help" before passing out.

Kari was rushed to a nearby hospital emergency department. A CT scan showed she had suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm, a type of stroke that involves bleeding and requires a high level of care. She was taken to Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth, where the stroke and interventional neurology team sprang into action.

Fortunately for Kari, Dr. Vikram Jadhav ("Dr. Vic"), an interventional neurologist, and his team were ready to help.

A ruptured brain aneurysm is life-threatening. It needs to be treated quickly, and St. Mary's provides this potentially life-saving care around the clock.

Upon being contacted by the first hospital that treated Kari, Dr. Vic says "We immediately reviewed Kari's CT scans remotely and provided specific recommendations in real-time for initial medical care and for EMS during her transfer. Our multidisciplinary team was ready as soon as she arrived at St. Mary's. Kari was stabilized in Neuro ICU and immediately taken for endovascular treatment."

"Dr. Vic and his care team saved my life," Kari reminisced.

Kari was treated by having a small web mesh-like device (Woven EndoBridge, WEB) inserted directly into the aneurysm. This minimally invasive procedure is accomplished by gaining access into a blood vessel in the arm or groin using a catheter, and then advancing a microcatheter into the brain aneurysm using fluoroscopic guidance. St. Mary's is the first hospital in the Northland to use WEB technology to treat brain aneurysms.

"Kari had an excellent recovery due to timely interventions and exceptional care in the Neuro ICU," said Dr. Vic.

"Everyone at Essentia did their job to help me, but they also got to know me as a person and not just a patient," Kari said. "They listened to all my questions and concerns and made sure I was taken care of."

Now Kari is back to 100%, something she attributes to Essentia's stroke and interventional neurology program led by Dr. Vic. Kari was discharged from the hospital to stroke rehab, where she worked with a knowledgeable and multifaceted team that helps patients with strokes and brain injuries gain functional independence.

"My aftercare has been wonderful," Kari said. "My therapy team has worked so closely with me to make sure I'm on track and doing what I need to be doing to have a full recovery."

At the urging of Dr. Vic, Kari has made some lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking and cutting back on drinking – both risk factors for a stroke.

According to Dr. Vic, taking care of your body is the best way to prevent a stroke. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking and diabetes are the leading causes of stroke, with one in three United States adults having at least one of these conditions or habits, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Essentia Health-Mary's Medical Center is a certified Advanced Thrombectomy Capable Stroke Center. As a nationally recognized stroke center, we have the ability to care for the most severe types of strokes and offer new treatments. Stroke care at St. Mary's involves a patient-centered, multidisciplinary approach that speeds up treatment and reduces recovery times for patients, while affording them the resources needed to recover and reduce the risk of future strokes.

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 are varied and can include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, confusion or trouble speaking, loss of or blurry vision, dizziness and occasionally a sudden severe headache.

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the American Stroke Association. To improve outcomes, there is an easy acronym to remember – BEFAST, which stands for:

  • Balance: Does the person have sudden loss of balance?
  • Eyes: Has the person lost vision in one or both eyes?
  • Face: Smile. Does the 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.

According to the American Stroke Association, 80% of strokes are preventable. Here are some lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce the risk:

  • Lose weight.
  • Eat healthy.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Drink less alcohol.
  • Reduce stress.

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