Swift treatment aids local stroke patient

Virginia woman is among other stroke patients around the world participating in a clinical trial of a new ultrasound therapy

By Ryan Cornell

WINCHESTER — A new form of ultrasound therapy being tested in clinics across the world could lead to the next major breakthrough in treating strokes.

The therapy involves placing a ClotBust-ER headframe on the head of someone who has suffered a stroke. The device, shaped like a crown, sends sonogram pulses toward a blood clot while an anticoagulant known as tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) infuses. Doctors believe the pulses could help penetrate and break up the clot.

Because the treatment is in its clinical trial phases and is a double-blind study, the doctors don’t even know whether the sonogram pulses are sent out or not, but one stroke patient undergoing the tests in Winchester, 79-year-old Dr. Jean Patrick, has gone through one miraculous transformation.

The morning of Oct. 23 started out like any other for Patrick. She woke up, had her breakfast and headed to Mountain View Christian Academy in Winchester, where she had started teaching music instrument lessons that month. She said good morning to Andy Fahey, an administrator at the school, and started teaching the lessons.

Patrick said she had finished playing the recorder and had moved on to teach her fourth grade student how to play the piano with both hands when she felt dizzy.

When the music often heard leaking out of the room was replaced by minutes of silence, Fahey said he knew something was wrong. He walked in and found Patrick slumped over a book with the wide-eyed student beside her. The teacher’s words were slurred and her actions sluggish, unlike her usual energetic nature.

Ignoring Patrick, who said she was just tired and needed some rest, Fahey stayed by her side and had someone at the school call 911.

Patrick had suffered a stroke. And the doctors treating her that afternoon said she was incredibly fortunate to be cared for right away.

Dr. Jennifer Stanford, the director of clinical research overseeing the trials, said Patrick had suffered the stroke at 1:30 p.m., had entered the hospital at 2:15 p.m. and started getting tPA at 3:25 p.m. Stanford said there’s only a three-hour window of opportunity for treating stroke patients with tPA.

She said the clot, located in the thalamus near the center of the brain, had made it difficult for Patrick to respond to questions and breathe. Within a day of the treatment, she was back to normal.

“It was completely amazing to me,” Stanford said. “To have done it 24 hours earlier and to see it the next day. It was a miracle.”

“I’ve done several stroke studies but this is definitely the most exciting,” she said.

Patrick said she doesn’t feel anything during the therapy sessions but notices that her speech clears up. She said she was able to play the piano the day after she was admitted to the hospital and answered “Obama” every time one of the doctors would ask her who the president was.

She recommends the treatment.

“It does a lot of good for a lot of people,” she said.

“This should be on the Charlie Rose show,” she said. “He would be very interested in this study.”

Dr. John Choi is the principal investigator administering the clinical trial. He said a study in 2004 concluded that ultrasound pulses were dramatically positive in reducing blood clots, but were conducted before the ClotBuster-ER headframe was introduced.

He said this study started in May and includes hundreds of patients like Patrick — who is the only one in Virginia — across the world. He added that Patrick is cleared to leave the Winchester Rehabilitation Center next week to go back home and be cared for by one of her children.

Choi said they will find out whether sonogram pulses were sent out or not by the end of the trial, which concludes in a year to a year and a half.

Fahey said he’s planning on teaching kids at the school how to respond when something like this happens in the future.

Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or rcornell@nvdaily.com