One night as he was getting ready for bed, Oliver “Rocky” Smith suddenly found himself on the floor of his bathroom. “There was no blackout, no pain,” recalled Mr. Smith, 64, a semiretired air conditioning mechanic.” I tried to get up but I couldn’t. I thought it was my socks slipping on the tile.”

Alerted by the family cat’s screeching meows, his wife got out of bed to investigate. Rene Smith recognized the symptoms of stroke immediately — her husband was slurring his speech and couldn’t move his left side. She called 911; minutes later, paramedics were racing Mr. Smith to Baptist Hospital, bypassing closer hospitals that did not have comprehensive stroke centers.

The stroke team leaped into action when Mr. Smith arrived. “Everything they did, they were literally running down the hall — because every single second counts,” Ms. Smith said. A CT scan of her husband’s brain showed a complete blockage in his right carotid artery and a clot in his brain. He was given the clot-busting drug, tPA, but it didn’t help. “He had a very bad stroke,” said Italo Linfante, M.D., medical director of interventional neuroradiology at Baptist Health Neuroscience Center. “tPA doesn’t work with a big clot.”

Treatment

By 2 a.m., less than three hours after his stroke began, Dr. Linfante was performing a minimally invasive endovascular angioplasty to open the blocked carotid artery with a tiny balloon and then remove the clot in the right middle cerebral artery. When he awoke, Mr. Smith was well on his way to a full recovery. “Dr. Linfante is a guardian angel who has been given a gift, this ability to salvage someone’s life with this procedure,” Ms. Smith said. “It saved Rocky’s life, and it saved his quality of life.” Today, about a year and a half after his stroke, Mr. Smith said he has recovered “100 percent.”

Recovery

He plays golf about once a week, travels around in his RV with his wife and enjoys time with his three grown children, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. “I’m out in the world, mobile, doing what I was doing before,” he said. Ms. Smith is grateful that paramedics followed the county’s stroke network guidelines and sought help for her husband at such a well prepared facility. “The Stroke Center at Baptist Hospital makes a difference,” she said. “It gave us a real quality of life that we don’t take for granted any longer.”

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