Mini-Strokes Led this Veteran to Life-Saving Vascular Surgery

Air Force Veteran John Durbin knew his health was in jeopardy on a Thanksgiving Day when he was playing cards with his fiance.

“My right hand went numb, then my arm went numb… then I got up and my right leg went numb,” explained John.

From his training in the medical field, John knew he needed medical attention quickly. After a 9-1-1 call, he was rushed to the hospital where doctors determined he had suffered a TIA (transient ischemic attack), or mini-stroke, with no lasting effects. He was 75 years old.

Gregory Kasper, MD, Jobst Vascular Institute, said John’s noticeable, but short-term symptoms are typical of a mini-stroke.

“A small piece of clot or small clumps of platelets can travel upstream, lodge in an area,” explained Dr. Kasper. “You lose function in that portion of the brain for a short period of time, and as pressure builds up it disperses those platelet granules almost like a clump of sand. It breaks up, disperses and that function comes back.”

When the effects last longer–10-15 minutes–it can be a permanent issue. “That’s where those situations can be very devastating,” said Dr. Kasper.

After that event, John underwent testing. But before he even received his results, he had experienced two more mini-strokes. The tests then showed that John had a major artery blockage, which could cause a major stroke and leave him debilitated

After one incident, there’s a 20-30% risk of having a significant stroke within 90 days.

“Usually after one incident, you’re going to have around a 20 percent risk, perhaps upwards of 30 percent, in having a significant stroke within 90 days.” said Dr. Kasper, who recommended that John have surgery.

The surgery allowed Dr. Kasper to isolate and clean out the granular material in John’s arteries. Now, John’s doing well but is being monitored closely for about a year.

Dr. Kasper advised that those with a family history of heart or stroke disease should be especially diligent with monitoring their health.

“A good healthy diet, good exercise, no smoking and, obviously, if you are diabetic or have high blood pressure or high cholesterol, appropriate medical therapy,” said Dr. Kasper. “Really managing those things will drop your risk significantly.”

John is grateful for the care he received before it was too late: “It was just a major stroke waiting to happen.”

Are you at risk for vascular disease? View our risk checklist now.