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Virginia Edwards, a Stroke Survivor, Rebounds With a Spirited Comeback

Thursday, May 11, 2017 8:10 AM

The power of the human spirit is a force to be reckoned with. When combined with the most advanced medical technology and expertise, even the most challenging health conditions can be overcome. Virginia Edwards of Glenview is living proof of that. Edwards suffered a massive stroke with a hemorrhage in the left frontal lobe of her brain. The stroke, which happened Thanksgiving week 2014, could easily have been fatal or left her in a highly diminished state. Thanks to superior care at NorthShore Neurological Institute—and her own tenacity—the 72-year-old Edwards has almost fully recovered. Today, she enjoys a full spectrum of activities, from painting and exercise to cooking and playing with her grandchildren.



While Edwards said she is “blessed with not remembering” much from the time of the stroke, her husband Bob was a constant witness. He found her at home on the floor, stood by her side while she was in critical condition in NorthShore’s Intensive Care Unit, and remained her tireless champion through revolutionary brain surgery and rigorous months of rehabilitation. “We’re extremely fortunate,” said Bob Edwards. “You wouldn’t know today that she even had a stroke.”

The couple is tremendously grateful to those who aided in her recovery, especially Julian Bailes, MD, the Bennett-Tarkington Chairman of Neurosurgery and NorthShore Neurological Institute Co-Director. Dr. Bailes performed an advanced, minimally invasive procedure to remove a blood clot lodged deep in a critical area of Virginia Edwards’ brain affecting her speech and mobility.

“Dr. Bailes is a marvelous individual and an extremely caring doctor. It’s wonderful that he’s at NorthShore,” Bob Edwards said.


NorthShore is the only healthcare provider in the Chicago area that removes blood clots in the brain following a stroke. This is made possible by the latest minimally invasive brain surgery technologies available only at NorthShore Neurological Institute, including Synaptive BrightMatter™—a sophisticated imaging system that pairs brain mapping with high-definition optics. Using a combination of advanced neurosurgery techniques, surgeons can effectively remove blood clots or tumors embedded in the brain through an opening smaller than a dime.

As the swelling in Virginia Edwards’ brain decreased, Dr. Bailes used this precision imaging to map out the safest route to reach and remove the blood clot through the natural folds in her brain. The operation itself took less than an hour and was a complete success, giving Edwards the opportunity to reclaim her life.

“In select cases, taking the blood clot out after a stroke can provide a much better outcome for the patient,” explained Dr. Bailes, a renowned neurosurgeon who holds an academic appointment at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. Improved outcomes may include a faster recovery time or fewer deficiencies after a stroke.


“When Virginia awoke from surgery, she had the capability of a child,” her husband recalled. “But that’s when she went to work.” Her previous good health provided a strong foundation as she worked tirelessly with NorthShore’s acute rehabilitation unit—a coordinated team of experts including physical, occupational and speech therapists.

“The therapists started working with her just a couple of days after the procedure,” recalled Bob Edwards. “By Christmas, she was walking without assistance and being called the ‘miracle patient.’”

The couple is particularly grateful to a trio of therapists who pushed Edwards almost as much as she pushed herself: Occupational Therapist Megan Regan, Speech Therapist Courtney Robberson and Physical Therapist Allison Cowden.

Occupational therapy proved to be the most challenging, explained Virginia Edwards, who was delighted when she was able to return to the kitchen and cook on her own without any assistance from her husband. Diving back into her passion for painting also was a victory for the accomplished artist.

“She’s been my friend for over 50 years,” said an emotional Bob, who points to his wife’s sense of humor and tenacity as the guiding forces behind her comeback.

“Virginia has made a great recovery, and it’s so rewarding to see her and know she’s able to paint again and live a full life,” added Dr. Bailes, who also credits her husband’s constant support as a critical part of her recovery. The couple’s two daughters and four grandchildren also share in the joy of her regained health.

“Life has become more routine in recent months, and that’s a good thing,” she said. “I’m so happy to wake up every day, realizing I get to go out there, do things and live my life. I’m very thankful for the recovery I’ve had.”

Virginia's story originally appeared in NorthShore's Connections publication