Kim's Story

“I think Lahey is amazing. I can honestly say that this is the best possible outcome I could have imagined. I can be nothing but thankful for Lahey Clinic. I’m extremely grateful; I had a great result.”

January 26, 2011, was just another ordinary day for Kim Richard-O’Brien of Arlington, Mass. She woke up and began getting herself and her two young daughters ready for the day. Strangely, while brushing her teeth, Kim noticed that she was struggling to remove the toothpaste cap with her left hand. The next thing she knew, she was on the floor. Though unsure of what was happening, Kim remained calm as her two and a half year-old daughter stood over her, repeating her request for pancakes for breakfast.

Because she works for a biotech company that manufactures drugs to treat multiple sclerosis, Kim immediately thought she had MS or was dehydrated as a result of not eating well the night before. She was struggling to talk and pull herself up off the floor; the left side of her body would not move. Luckily, the nanny who cares for her children arrived shortly after and immediately recognized the symptoms Kim was experiencing: numbness and difficulty with motor skills on one side of the body, slurring of speech, inability to identify basic facts such as the date or time, and drooping on one side of the face. Kim, 33 years old and perfectly healthy, had suffered a major stroke.

Lahey patient Kim Richard-O'Brien shares her stroke survival storyKim’s nanny immediately dialed 911. The paramedics arrived quickly and confirmed that Kim had, in fact, experienced a stroke. She arrived at Lahey just 10 minutes later; fortunately well within the window of time to receive tPA, a clot-busting drug. In addition to the traditional intravenous administration of tPA, Kim was also given the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial under way at Lahey, whereby the medication was also injected directly into the clot in Kim’s brain. The portions of the clot that were not dissolved by this intra-arterial application of tPA were then sucked out using an minimally invasive interventional technique.

Following this innovative procedure, Kim woke up and was able to speak, move, and function normally again. Her husband, who was traveling for work when Kim had the stroke, had taken the first flight home after doctors contacted him following Kim’s arrival at the ER. By the time he got to her, it was almost as if nothing had happened.

“They put me under [anesthesia], and when I woke up, it was like magic. Everything worked again. It’s hard to realize how lucky we were and how this could have been very, very different.”

Just three days later, Kim walked out of the hospital and was able to return home with no restrictions. She says her extraordinary outcome was ultimately the result of being in the right place at the right time—and having the right care. She continues to be closely monitored by her Lahey specialists and is working to overcome some minor strength and coordination difficulties on her left side.

“Never did it once occur to me that it wouldn’t be okay. Having the doctors here [at Lahey] with the ability to do this is amazing. My prognosis is great. We’re very thankful, very grateful, and very lucky.”