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Quick Response: Stroke Care Team Brings Full Recovery to Local Resident

IU Health Bedford Hospital

Quick Response: Stroke Care Team Brings Full Recovery to Local Resident

Michael Villanueva’s evening shift at Boston Scientific ended around 10.

“I was walking around with a friend when Desiree pulled up to get me,” he says, referencing his wife. Michael slid into the driver’s seat and pulled forward. About 20 seconds later he slammed on the brakes, just inches from hitting a parked car.

“What are you doing?” Desiree yelled out to her husband of 15 years. “I thought you were talking to me,” Michael responded.

“I thought it was strange, but I chocked it up to him being tired,” she adds. As the couple regrouped, Michael drove through the parking lot, mumbling. Desiree thought her husband, a frequent jokester, was just messing with her. He pulled out onto the roadway. Seconds later, the car started to drift, crossing into the oncoming lane.

“I grabbed for the steering wheel, but everything was happening so quickly,” she says. The couple veered off the road, rolling over the rumble strip. “It was pitch-black out there and we were headed for a building. Thankfully, Michael knew enough to slow down.” Desiree sprung into action and pushed the car’s gear into park, bringing it to a halt.

“I grabbed his face and said: ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” With tears in his eyes and in a garbled voice, he responded: “I don’t know.”

Desiree’s first thoughts focused on Michael’s existing medical conditions. Five years earlier he had undergone a liver transplant. The possibility of rejection always looms.

Alone and scared in the middle of Spencer, on the dark night of October 25, Desiree, a former Certified Nursing Assistant, cried out for help.

“God blew a breath of calm into my brain and I dialed 911.” By the time she told the dispatcher that something was wrong, Desiree had figured it out.

“I knew it was a stroke, and the words ‘brain is time, time is brain’ pounded in my mind. I knew in my heart, that’s what it was.”

Emergency squads rolled into action. “Within 30 seconds of hanging up, I heard sirens. It took about two minutes. They don’t mess around in Spencer. They are very quick,” Desiree says.

Within a few lifesaving minutes, the ambulance arrived at IU Health Bloomington Hospital. “They are really set up well for stroke care,” Desiree says of the region’s only Certified Primary Stroke Center. IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians provider Ronnie Goswami, MD, neuro hospitalist, was at home assessing Michael through Telestroke video technology. When Michael arrived at the hospital’s emergency department, a team of experts sprung into recovery mode.

“Michael’s stroke was severe, just short of massive,” Desiree says, describing her husband’s appearance in detail. “His left side was totally gone,” she says, demonstrating the limpness she observed. “He was experiencing partial blindness and he had a terrible headache.”

Upon his arrival at the hospital, Dr. Goswami told the couple it would take several hours to see results from the medication. “They told us there was a slim chance the medicine would work negatively, but a slightly better chance that it would help.” After checking his conditions, the medical team administered Alteplase, the only medication approved by the FDA for stroke patients.

Her voice cracks. “I was very scared. Even if he made it, I knew it could cause liver rejection. But we had no other choice.”

Less than two hours later in the Intensive Care Unit, the outcome was clear.

“He was 90 to 95 percent better.” All of his functions had returned with the exception of some mild numbness and tingling in his hand and foot. “That’s when we knew he would be fine. It was a miracle, an answer to prayer,” she says, but also credits the IU Health Bloomington Certified Primary Stroke Center’s systematic approach for Michael’s quick and amazing recovery. “When we got him up, he walked fine. He didn’t have therapy - nothing.”

Desiree has high praise for the team of experts led by Dr. Goswami. She said their entire family was crowded into the available space in the hospital room. “Dr. Goswami never once asked us to leave and he was a river of peace for us. He was so calm.”

In little more than three days, Michael was released from the hospital and anxious to go back to work within two weeks. “I sat at home for five years (with the liver transplant and recovery). If I could go back right away, that’s what I wanted to do.”

Six months later, sitting comfortably in his west side Bloomington home with his wife lovingly doting on him, Michael shows no signs of ever experiencing a stroke. “I feel great. I feel nothing.”

His wife praised him for his fortitude. “Michael is always upbeat. God still has plans for Michael’s life.”

The IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians expert featured prominently in this story works at IU Health Bloomington Hospital. Dr. Ronnie Goswami sees patients entering the hospital through the emergency department.

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