Local seed grower is grateful to Providence team for stroke care

Local seed grower is grateful to Providence team for stroke care

A new lease on life.

Fred Fleming was driving home with his family from Idaho where his grandson had been playing basketball when he started slurring his words. “Pull off the road and park,” his daughter Jill told him. He exited the highway and came to a stop in a parking lot. Fred didn’t realize what was happening, but his family recognized the symptoms.

Fred, 71, was taken to the emergency department (ED) at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, where it was confirmed that he had suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA).

A TIA is a sudden, short-term loss of blood flow to the brain, disrupting oxygen supply. Although it’s not classified as a stroke, a TIA produces symptoms of a stroke, except they disappear within minutes to an hour.

Carotid artery disease diagnosis

While undergoing tests at Sacred Heart, Fred’s care team discovered additional information – a complete blockage in his left carotid artery and 80% blockage in his right artery, the main blood vessels that send blood and oxygen to the brain.

With no lasting symptoms, the care team prescribed Fred an aggressive treatment plan that required a combination of medications to help reduce his risk of a stroke, as he prepared for an innovative vascular surgery to remove the blockage in both arteries.

Thankful on Thanksgiving

Several days later, while loading the car with dishes to take to his son’s home for Thanksgiving dinner, Fred fell and had difficulty getting up. He was able to get back into the house, but his wife Vicki knew something was wrong. “He was having a hard time using his right hand,” she says.

At the Sacred Heart ED, Fred was admitted to the hospital for further evaluation but his symptoms worsened the next morning. He was slurring his words again and couldn’t move the fingers on his right hand. Fred was immediately taken in for surgery where the interventional radiologist (IR) was able to grasp and remove a large clot. Blood flow was instantly restored to the left side of his brain. Then the IR inserted a balloon in the left carotid artery, a temporary measure to allow blood flow in the artery until a stent could be inserted.

The next thing Fred remembered was being gently woken up in recovery. He wiggled his fingers. “I could use my hand perfectly,” he says. Fred’s surgeon showed him a photo of the clot, the biggest one he’d ever removed from a patient’s brain.

“The procedures went very well,” says Cynthia Murphy, M.D., lead vascular neurologist at Providence Spokane Neuroscience Institute. “It was a true team effort to get his arteries open.”

Learn more about the Providence Spokane Neuroscience Institute here. 

TCAR procedure addresses cause of strokes

Less than a month after the clot was removed from his brain, Fred returned to Sacred Heart for a TCAR procedure on his left carotid artery to address the cause of the strokes. A TCAR (transcarotid artery revascularization) is a minimally invasive procedure that requires opening the artery through a small incision on the base of the neck. A stent is put in place to trap plaque, keeping the pathway open for blood flow to the brain.

Providence vascular surgeon, Luke X. Zhan, M.D., Ph.D., performed the procedure on Fred’s left carotid artery, and then his right carotid artery a month later.

Fred quickly recovered from both procedures and noticed a marked difference in his health. “It was like I had a new lease on life,” he says. “I’m grateful. Every time I tell this story I’m aware of the miracle I experienced.” 

Learn more about stroke and heart health at Providence.org/BetterU