Becoming a Stroke Survivor: Mike Wanagat's Patient Story
Mike Wanagat, a 58-year-old retired electrician and Sandusky resident, has established a busy new career remodeling bathrooms and kitchens. One day in March 2012, Mike left a job site in Perkins and was headed to Milan to check on another job. He was on the phone with his wife, Mary, when he abruptly said he was seeing double and had to pull over into a parking lot.
Then the phone went dead.
Mary knew something was wrong with her husband. “I was on my way home from work, but had no idea where he was,” said Mary. “I called him back several times, but he didn’t answer. All I knew was that he was in a parking lot somewhere.” Frantic, she called Ken Berlin, a Huron firefighter and the owner of the house where Mike had been working. He told Mary he would help her look for Mike.
Unable to see, Mike had pulled into the parking lot of a trucking company office on Columbus Avenue. An employee of the company who was leaving work stopped to ask Mike if he was ok. Mike told her yes, but on her way home she called back to her office and asked her colleagues to check on Mike again. Another employee, who also happens to be a part-time EMT in Danbury, approached Mike’s truck and knew right away he needed help.
As the employee was talking to Mike, Mike’s cell phone rang again and the employee answered the call. It was Mary. “Thank goodness the man was there and answered the phone. And he was an EMT! Now I knew where Mike was.” The employee told Mary he would call 9-1-1.
Ken and Mary arrived at the parking lot at the same time. “By then Mike couldn’t move his right side, his speech was garbled, and the right side of his face sagged. He was getting worse fast,” says Mary. An ambulance arrived and Mike was rushed to the Emergency Room at Firelands Regional Medical Center.
At Firelands, which is a certified Primary Stroke Center, the ER physician determined Mike was having a stroke and contacted Dr. Brendan Bauer, a neurologist on the hospital’s medical staff. Dr. Bauer recommended that Mike receive tissue plasminogen activator, better known as t-PA.
T-PA, a medication that dissolves blood clots, is sometimes used to treat people who are having an ischemic stroke*, which occurs when blood vessels become blocked or clogged, cutting off blood flow to the brain cells. This was the type of stroke Mike was having.
According to Kathy Sciarappa, RN, patients must meet a strict set of criteria before receiving t-PA. “The medicine works best the earlier it is given. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use within three hours of stroke symptom onset. T-PA is not recommended for all patients, even if they meet the time frame for treatment. It carries certain risks that must be considered as well.”
Mike’s condition was quickly deteriorating; he did not recognize Mary or his daughter Katie, and Father Dave Nuss of St. Mary’s Catholic Church gave Mike the Anointing of the Sick (previously known as Last Rites). It had been just a little over two hours since Mike’s stroke symptoms began when Dr. Bauer ordered the t-PA. “It was amazing,” says Mary. “Within 30 minutes Mike started improving.”
A Miraculous Journey for a Stroke Survivor
The decision was made to LifeFlight Mike to a Cleveland hospital. To the immense surprise and relief of his family and friends, within two days he was discharged with no lasting side effects and no need for any therapies. “They did numerous tests, but could find no cause for my stroke,” says Mike. “I don’t have any risk factors, other than slightly elevated blood pressure, which is controlled with medication. I just thank God that I got a second chance. I was so fortunate that the t-PA worked for me.”
*The other two types of stroke are transient ischemic attack (TIA) or “warning stroke”, which occurs when blood flow to the brain is blocked for a short time and does not cause brain injury; and hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel ruptures in or near the brain.