Driving home to Long Island from Colorado on his way back from picking up his son, Shaun Gardner experienced two episodes of blurred vision, which each lasted about 10-15 minutes. Despite these events, he completed his journey home safely. Once home, he sought out the opinion of an ophthalmologist to see if he could determine what was affecting his vision. Things, though, would take a turn shortly after. A few days later, as Shaun was getting a haircut, he had a monumental scare.
“My eyes went black,” said Shaun. “I sat, finished getting my haircut, and then had my wife take me to the volunteer fire department so I could have an ambulance bring me to the ER.”
At the emergency room, the results of an MRI revealed that Shaun had suffered a stroke about two weeks earlier. This was around the time he had experienced the episodes of blurred vision. A few days later, he underwent a Transcarotid Artery Revascularization (TCAR) to prevent further health complications, including ischemic stroke. Director of the Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center of Long Island at Catholic Health's Good Samaritan Hospital Kimon Bekelis, MD, a leading specialist in minimally invasive endovascular neurosurgery, performed the procedure.
“TCAR provides the patient with an alternative to traditional surgery. The less invasive approach reduces the risk of a heart attack, nerve injury, time required to perform the procedure and hospital recovery time,” said Dr. Bekelis
Dr. Bekelis describes Shaun as a prime candidate for the TCAR procedure. He is young and considered to be at higher risk due to his previous stroke. During the TCAR procedure, catheters are inserted into small incisions in the carotid artery in the neck and the femoral vein in the groin. Blood flow through the carotid artery is reversed to prevent debris dislodged during the procedure from traveling to the brain and causing additional complications. A filter also serves to collect any potential debris before blood is returned to the blood vessel in the leg. The procedure concludes with the placement of a stent in the carotid artery, which serves to increase blood flow through the artery and stabilize any plaque on the artery walls with the aim of preventing future strokes.
Patients, including Shaun, who undergo the TCAR procedure, are frequently able to leave the hospital the next day. His procedure was just a few short weeks ago and his recovery is going very well. Dr. Bekelis anticipates a strong recovery without any lingering effects.
Shaun reports he is now feeling fine and is “just waiting for some follow-up tests” before completely resuming normal everyday life.
Andrew Infantino doesn’t remember the close of 2020. However, his wife, Amanda, does but may want to forget.
Andrew was fighting COVID-19. After two weeks of isolating in their home’s spare bedroom, the Nesconset resident’s condition did not improve. Amanda took her weak and dehydrated husband to Catholic Health’s St. Catherine of Siena Hospital (Smithtown, NY) where he was admitted and diagnosed with pneumonia.
“I spoke with Andrew just after he was settled in his room,” Amanda recalled. “In addition to pneumonia, he said his head was hurting badly. I told him to make sure he told the doctors.”
But Andrew never had a chance. Just hours later he suffered a stroke. Amanda was quickly informed and told her husband was being transferred to another Catholic Health facility, Good Samaritan Hospital (West Islip, NY). There, he was treated by Catholic Health’s Chairman of Neurointerventional Services Kimon Bekelis, MD.
“The doctors believe the stroke was related to COVID, as the virus can thicken the blood,” Amanda said. “The fact that Andrew was in bed for a couple of weeks likely didn’t help.”
Andrew was suffering from a condition known as extensive cerebral venous thrombosis, which occurs when a blood clot forms in the brain's venous sinuses. This prevents blood from draining out of the brain. As a result, blood cells may break and leak blood into the brain tissues, forming a hemorrhage.
Dr. Bekelis told Amanda that her husband had a low chance of surviving. Fortunately, Andrew’s condition stabilized for a period of 24 hours. This allowed Dr. Bekelis to perform a lifesaving venous thrombectomy on the then 39-year old to remove the clot.
Following surgery, Andrew’s condition improved and in two weeks, he was smiling and waving to his wife and their three sons through FaceTime calls. And after seven weeks at Good Samaritan Hospital, he returned home.
“I didn’t need to do a great deal of rehabilitation,” Andrew said. “I had a physical therapist come to my hospital room daily to help me regain my strength.”
Throughout her husband’s stay, Amanda said the physicians and nurses were “amazing.”
“No matter when I called, they would speak with me and give me updates on Andrew’s condition. They would also take the time to connect us on FaceTime as my visits were limited by COVID restrictions,” she said.
Added Andrew, “From the doctors, to the nurses and staff, everyone was wonderful. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Today, Andrew is doing well, working, enjoying his family and living a normal life.
“If you didn’t know my story, you would have no idea of what I went through,” he said. “I can’t thank Dr. Bekelis and the entire team at Good Samaritan for the care they provided. They saved my life!”
Thank you for your interest in The Stroke & Brain Aneurysm Center of Long Island®. Our program has attracted a diverse group of national experts, and is the first and only Joint Commission Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center in the South Shore of Long Island.
60 George Street
Babylon, NY 11702
380 Montauk Highway
West Islip, NY 11795
St. Catherine of Siena Medical Office Bldg.
48 Route 25A, Suite 302
Smithtown, NY 11787