The morning of Feb. 12 began as most did for the Morris family. Around 8 a.m., Eric Morris was getting ready for work upstairs in his Brookline, N.H. home, while his wife Kristen prepared lunches downstairs for their two teenage daughters.
Less than 12 hours later, Morris was 35 miles away in a hospital bed – recovering from a massive stroke that almost took his life. Thanks to a series of flawless handoffs between care teams and an emergency clot-removal procedure, the 41-year-old is now back home enjoying his second chance at life.
“The whole experience is a little fuzzy,” Morris said. “I have a lot of people to thank, because I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for them.”
That morning, Morris was in the shower when he “started to feel really weird.” He got out of the shower and — hair wet, wrapped in a towel — lay down in bed. Minutes later, he got up and attempted to get dressed, but fell over while putting on his pants. When he tried to call to his wife, no words came out. He crawled back into bed, terrified and confused. That’s where Kristen Morris found him when she came to check on him because he was supposed to be driving his daughters to school.
Panicked, she called 911.
“Eric not being able to talk at all was incredibly scary, especially seeing how scared he was,” Kristen Morris said. “It was almost like you’re watching TV. You’re wondering ‘How is this going to end?’ and then you realize, ‘Oh my God, this is my life.’”
Morris was rushed by ambulance to St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua, 25 minutes away. The crew recognized that Eric was having a stroke, and alerted the emergency room staff that he was en route.
He arrived there just over an hour after his initial symptoms – within the critical window of time clinicians can administer treatments to minimize permanent brain damage. The team – including stroke coordinator Sue Barnard, MS, RN, APRN, CCRN, neurologist Khawaja Rahman, MD, and emergency physicians and nurses – responded rapidly. In less than 90 minutes, Morris had received a CT scan, an angiogram and a clot-busting drug known as TPA.
They decided to transfer Morris to Lahey Hospital & Medical Center in Burlington, Mass., a St. Joseph Hospital affiliate, where he could receive further treatment from a multidisciplinary team of specialists with experience in advanced stroke intervention.
“Because of this collaboration, we’re giving people a new option,” said Barnard. “Our patients ultimately benefit and are getting better care because of it.”
Upon arrival at Lahey, a team including emergency medicine physicians, stroke and interventional neuroradiologists and neurocritical care doctors were ready and waiting.
“Eric was having a very big stroke,” said Dr. Burns, a neurocritical care doctor who was part of Eric’s care team. “St. Joseph did an excellent job acting quickly and getting him to us fast.”
Eric was in an operating room within minutes. Interventional neuroradiologist In Sup Choi, MD, placed stents in Morris’ carotid artery, which was closed off, and removed a clot, part of which had traveled up to a hard-to-reach area of his brain.
“Because we intervened so quickly — before permanent damage to the brain had happened — he was able to regain his speech,” Dr. Choi said.
The morning after the procedure, Eric was able to say a few words. Three months later, he is working with a speech therapist weekly and has made tremendous progress.
“I’m relearning all the things you’re taught in first and second grade, but I’m getting better every day,” he said.
For more information about stroke services at Lahey Hospital & Medical center, click here.