Moab Stroke Patient Makes Miraculous Recovery Thanks to TeleStroke


In the middle of a warm June night in 2010, Robert Russell awoke to a tingling sensation in his left arm. He thought perhaps his arm had gone to sleep, until he realized his left leg was also tingling. He tried to roll over, but discovered he wasn’t able to move. “I was worried,” says Robert, “I was pretty sure I was having a stroke.” He called downstairs to his wife, who was still up reading, and she called 911.

Robert had good cause to be worried, as strokes are the third leading cause of death in the U.S. as well as the leading cause of adult disability. The nearest hospital to the Russell’s rural home was 40 minutes away in Moab, a small resort town in southeastern Utah. An ambulance was immediately dispatched and the emergency medical services crew worked quickly to take Robert to Moab’s Allen Memorial Hospital (Allen Memorial Hospital has since been replaced by Moab Regional Hospital).

When he arrived at the hospital, David W. Fairbanks, MD, began his examination of Robert. After Robert’s CT scan, Robert and Fairbanks used a video conferencing network called Telestroke to consult with University of Utah Health's stroke specialist Jennifer J. Majersik, MD, MS. She evaluated Robert’s CT scans and, using Telestroke’s face-to-face video conferencing, checked to see if he could move his arms and legs, identify pictures of objects, and speak clearly.

Majersik determined that Robert was a good candidate for tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), a powerful drug that can be given to ischemic stroke victims within three hours of a stroke’s onset in order to help prevent stroke-induced disability. Majersik calculated the dosage and directed Fairbanks as he administered the drug to Robert. “Almost immediately I started to feel the effects of the stroke dissipate. I began to be able to move my arm and leg!” says Robert.

The Moab team flew Robert to University of Utah Hospital where he was admitted to the Neuro Critical Care Unit for observation. “All of the symptoms were gone by the time I got to Salt Lake,” Robert says. “When Dr. Majersik came through on rounds, I said, ‘Why don’t you let me out of here? I’m not sick anymore.’” In less than 24 hours after the onset of his stroke, Robert had completely recovered with no disabilities, and he was released from the hospital. “I’m forever indebted to University of Utah Health because of my experience of having gotten this special treatment that enabled me to completely recover from a stroke immediately,” says Robert. “It certainly changed my life.”

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