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Delivery Driver Receives Lifesaving Stroke Treatment

Jimmy HillFedEx driver Jimmy Hill knew something was wrong. While making morning deliveries in Randolph County just two days before Christmas 2011, he began to lose control of the right side of his body.

“My right hand suddenly looked like it was a mile away from me,” he recalls.

Hill made his way to the nearby Climax Fire Station. By the time he arrived, he was unable to speak clearly enough to describe his symptoms to firefighters.

Randolph County Emergency Services personnel called to the scene suspected a stroke. They quickly transported Hill to The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital, a nationally certified Primary Stroke Center.

Stroke Nurse Practitioner Sharon Biby vividly remembers the day. “It was Friday, Dec. 23, and our team was headed out for a special holiday lunch,” she says. “When we heard the emergency stroke code called, we quickly made our way to the emergency room instead.”

Biby and Pramod Sethi, MD, Medical Director of The Moses H. Cone Memorial Hospital Stroke Center, were waiting for Hill when he arrived. They knew immediately his stroke was severe: He had no movement on the right side of his body, and he couldn’t speak at all.

As a first step, they administered tPA, a drug that helps dissolve clots that block blood flow and can trigger a stroke. tPA works best when administered within the first three hours of the onset of a stroke.

Hill was well within the appropriate time frame to benefit from this medication.

Further tests showed the underlying cause of Hill’s health problems: a tear inside his left carotid artery. It was a life-threatening condition that required immediate action.

Interventional neuroradiologist Tony Deveshwar, MD, performed an emergency angioplasty to repair the torn artery with a stent. He found that clots from the arterial tear were blocking blood flow to a region of Hill’s brain that controlled his movement and speech. After putting a small amount of tPA directly into the artery, Deveshwar retrieved two clots and restored normal blood flow. For the next 24 hours, Hill remained sedated and on a ventilator in intensive care.

“They woke me on Christmas Day,” he remembers. “The first thing I heard was Dr. Sethi calling my name.”

Just six days after he arrived at the hospital, Hill returned home to his family. Though he’s not yet able to work, outpatient therapists have helped him make great progress. Today, he walks with only a slight limp and has regained much of his normal speech.

“When I first woke up at the hospital, I could count to four and say the first four letters of the alphabet — but that was it,” he says. “I didn’t know my phone number or home address. I’ve come a long way.”

Sethi and his team say Hill certainly would have died without prompt intervention.

“They told me I was their Christmas miracle," Hill says. "There was no better place for me to go than Moses Cone Hospital. I still cry when I think about what the team there did for me.”