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Survivor, Thanks to Comprehensive Care Close to Home

Monday, September 18, 2017 8:17 AM

Allen Bean would have never predicted a stroke in his future. The 73-year-old practicing attorney from Highland Park had no obvious risk factors and maintained a fit and healthy life.

But he clearly knew something was not right when he woke up one morning this past April and had trouble walking.

Bean reacted quickly, waking up his wife Cindy. She immediately recognized signs of a potential stroke, including slightly slurred speech and weakness on his right side and called 911.

It’s About Time
Paramedics transported Bean to nearby NorthShore Highland Park Hospital where a team of stroke experts sprang into action. When a stroke occurs, timing is everything and the clock was ticking. They quickly launched a flurry of diagnostic tests including a CAT scan, MRI and thorough neurologic exam. It did not take long for them to determine that Bean had indeed suffered a small stroke deep in the brain.

“Fortunately for Allen, his stroke didn’t lead to major disability,” explained Neurologist Rob Gil, MD, part of a comprehensive NorthShore Neurological Institute clinical team always at the ready when a stroke patient comes in. “We know that even a single stroke like the one Allen suffered may be a warning sign that more serious and potentially devastating strokes could happen. It’s my job to identify risk factors and approach each patient individually to lower their risk of another stroke.”

“Once we got to the Emergency Department it was like clockwork, with everyone doing their part,” recalled Cindy Bean. “We saw three different neurologists during his five-day stay and were impressed by all of them.”

Throughout his hospitalization—particularly in the first 24 hours—Bean was carefully and continuously monitored to ensure that his blood pressure stayed in the optimal range. Under the watchful eyes of the Highland Park stroke team, his condition stabilized.

Full-Service Stroke Care
As the premier Joint Commission-Certified Primary Stroke Center on the NorthShore, stroke patients at Highland Park Hospital have all the care they need within one location. For Allen Bean, rehab was part of his post-stroke treatment including physical, occupation and speech therapy to set the stage for a full recovery.

“The therapists were exceptional,” noted Cindy Bean, who, as an occupational therapist herself, has high standards. “Their level of communication and expertise was impressive.”

“Everybody who came in to my room—nurses, technicians—were all geared specifically to taking care of stroke patients and that was a real positive,” added Allen Bean.

“Our stroke patients’ entire hospital experience is managed by stroke specialists,” said Richard Munson, MD, Director of the NorthShore Stroke Program. “Every person involved in patient care is specially trained—from Emergency Department nurses to floor nurses—and they work directly with our stroke neurologists and advanced practice nurses.”

“I really love taking care of stroke patients,” said Advance Practice Nurse Christine Deato, who was part of Bean’s multispecialty care team. “I’m a stroke survivor myself, so it’s personal.    I’m determined to help educate people as stroke is a largely preventable condition if you address your risk factors.”

From Rehab to Recovery

Four months after the stroke, Bean’s speech and cognition are fully intact. His biggest challenge remains mobility. Still in rehab, he is working hard to fully regain his ability to walk smoothly and get back to the daily commute and brisk walks to his Chicago Loop law office. As part of his follow-up care, Dr. Gil has recommended a daily aspirin and a follow-up sleep study, as sleep apnea can be another risk factor for stroke.

“In our diagnostic testing, we didn’t find any signs of major blockages in Allen’s arteries that could suggest a greater risk for repeat stroke,” noted Dr. Gil, who holds an academic title at the Pritzker School of Medicine. “I’m confident he’ll do quite well.”

Both Allen and Cindy Bean are quick to emphasize the positives of his care at NorthShore and the level of recovery, which improves daily as he continues to work tirelessly on rehabilitation. “All you can do is work hard and be as healthy as you can be. You have to play the hand you’re dealt,” he said.

The Beans are looking forward to the future with great anticipation, including the arrival of their first grandchild. “We really do savor every day,” added Cindy Bean. “I think we did that before, but this is another reminder. Everybody has something to deal with sooner or later, and we feel we’ve been relatively lucky through this.”