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Time Lost is Brain Lost: Janie Tsai’s Story

It was an average Sunday for Albert Yang and his wife Janie Tsai when something suddenly went terribly wrong. “I had gotten up to make breakfast and the kids ran into the kitchen to tell me that mommy fell,” said Yang. “I noticed that her body was kind of limp and her speech was on-and-off slurred, and the left side of her face started to droop.”
Janie had suffered a major stroke with 70% blockage, which is rare in patients under 65 years of age. And while Janie recovered, there are millions of stories like Janie’s that don’t have the same outcome. In fact, stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States. Moreover, every four minutes someone dies from a stroke.
Luckily for Janie, her husband’s quick thinking led her to a team of stroke experts at St. Luke’s Health–The Woodlands Hospital, the only Comprehensive Stroke Center in North Houston. It wasn’t long before the ER doctors and neurologists determined that surgery was needed to remove the clot, as is often the case when the clot is too big and clot-busting drugs are not effective in dissolving it.
“Once we realized she needed surgery, she was immediately taken to the cath lab where we prepped her and restored blood in a rapid and timely fashion,” said Dr. Jeremiah Johnson, cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgeon at St. Luke’s Health–The Woodlands Hospital.
But Janie’s treatment wasn’t complete until her care team could fully understand and repair the cause of the stroke. “Ultimately, we found that she had a rare connection between the two sides of her heart, which we know can cause stroke even in young people,” said Johnson. “She had that repaired with our cardiology team, and that should prevent Janie from having a stroke ever again.”
One of the advantages of being a Comprehensive Stroke Center, Johnson added, is that all these services are in one place, enabling the care team to work in tandem and in a timely manner. “Without this type of intervention, this could have resulted in someone that needed to live in an assisted living facility, not speak properly, and certainly not enjoy the quality of life that she’s currently enjoying with her family.”
And Janie’s husband is very thankful for that quality of life. “It was very impressive to me just the amount of people involved in her care and the fact that she was able to move her arm and move her leg after surgery,” said Albert. “She was also able to speak, and that to me was somewhat of a miracle. I’m glad we made the decision to take her to St. Luke’s Health–The Woodlands Hospital.”

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