Retired Manasquan Coach Fully Recovers from Massive Stroke   

Retired Manasquan Coach Fully Recovers from Massive Stroke

Man stands up against a fence with his yellow lab.

St. Patrick’s Day of 2023 was shaping up to be a typical active day for 73-year-old Doug O’Connell of Manasquan, New Jersey, who is a retired coach and educator. He had already been to his acupuncture appointment, and by about 10:45 a.m., he was home getting ready to take his white lab, Ned, for a run on the beach.

“I am often away teaching meditation, but fortunately, not that day,” Doug’s wife, Cindy, says. “I went into the kitchen and found Doug on the floor. He couldn’t get up or move his right arm, and he was in a light sweat. I called 911, and the ambulance was there within minutes.”

By the time Cindy got to the hospital, Doug had already been evaluated and diagnosed with ischemic stroke. Because it was still within the three-hour window of effectiveness, he was given tPA, a medication to dissolve clots. 

However, a CT scan showed his stroke had been caused by a massive, hyperdense clot that was blocking arteries in his brain, and the tPA was not enough. Doug needed more aggressive treatment.

A Remarkable Recovery From Stroke

Pinakin Jethwa, M.D., director of Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery and Outpatient Neurology Care at Hackensack Meridian Neuroscience Institute at Jersey Shore University Medical Center, was called to treat Doug, who by that time had a score of 23 on the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (a score of 21 is considered severe). 

Dr. Jethwa performed an endovascular thrombectomy, which involved using x-rays to thread a catheter from Doug’s groin up to his carotid artery. By then, the original mass had broken into three clots, all of which were still quite large. Using a stent retriever and suction, Dr. Jethwa removed all of them, allowing normal blood flow through the arteries. 

Following the roughly one-hour procedure, Doug’s score dramatically lowered to a much safer 7 and returned to normal within a day.

“Doug’s clots were very close together at the base of his brain in the arteries that fed his left frontal and temporal lobes. He made a pretty remarkable, almost miraculous recovery,” says Dr. Jethwa. “Within hours, his weakness was nearly resolved, and his speech returned. His prognosis is excellent.”

Back to Baseline

Doug was released from the hospital after six days. Soon after, he began outpatient rehabilitation at the Secondary Stroke Prevention Clinic at Jersey Shore, where he met Sanskriti Mishra, M.D., director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Jersey Shore. 

“Mr. O’Connell had made significant improvements while he was hospitalized. He still had mild speech deficits at our first clinic visit,” Dr. Mishra says. “My goals for him were to have a complete recovery to his functional status before his stroke, and he has been able to achieve that.” 

While Doug’s family roots are in Ireland, it was much more than the luck of the Irish that St. Patrick’s Day that led to his excellent outcome. When he first started experiencing symptoms, Cindy knew Jersey Shore was where he should go. She had heard about it being a Center of Excellence in treating stroke. 

Dr. Jethwa states that Jersey Shore is one of a very few comprehensive stroke centers in New Jersey and has the specialized equipment and extensively trained stroke team that work together to get their patients from the arrival of the ambulance through treatment, rehabilitation and recovery.

That quick action certainly made the difference for Doug, who credits his doctors and team at Jersey Shore with giving him back his life after a stroke that could have been debilitating or even fatal. 

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.


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