His Stroke Came Suddenly After Mild COVID-19 and No Underlying Health Issues: ‘I was in Denial’

Robert Wright, 57, a 32-year police veteran with 26 years at the Coral Gables Police Department, took pride in being fit. He had no underlying health problems and was a regular runner. So, it was no surprise that after he tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-April, he had very mild symptoms and just felt a “little worn down.”

But thencame May 16th.

On that day,he took his daughter’s car to be serviced at a tire center near his home inSouth Miami. Moments after speaking to an attendant at the location’s waitingarea, Mr. Wright would suffer a major stroke. As he recalls the details of thatday, he says he still can’t believe he was a candidate for such an event thatwould leave him requiring speech and physical therapy.

Whether the stroke was related to his COVID-19 infection remains an unanswered question — although studies have linked the coronavirus to various neurological effects, including stroke.

(Watch video: The Baptist Health Resource team hears from stroke patient, Robert Wright, and Guilherme Dabus, M.D., an interventional neuroradiologist at Miami Neuroscience Institute. Video by George Carvalho.)

“I satdown in the lobby of the tire shop, and maybe 45 minutes later — I don’t know;I lost track of time — the manager was calling my name and he said, ‘Mr.Wright, your car is ready,’ and I couldn’t discern who was calling me,”remembers Mr. Wright, a husband and father of three adult children. “And Ikept hearing my name over and over, maybe three or four or five times. And,finally, I came to and kind of stumbled up to the manager’s desk and I rememberhearing a voice next to me saying, ‘this man needs help.’

“I wasfeeling a little nauseous, and I was in some sort of fog-like state of mind.All of a sudden, I think the manager said that we’re going to call the paramedics.”

Robert Wright, with wife Janet; son Robert, Jr. (Robby), and daughter Anne.

Mr. Wright says he was in a “state of denial” throughout the experience. He had never suffered from high blood pressure or heart disease, two major risk factors for stroke. Initially, Mr. Wright would spend about a week at Baptist Hospital after undergoing an immediate — and successful — thrombectomy, a procedure during which a catheter is threaded into an artery at the groin and up through the neck until it reaches the blood clot causing the stroke.

These Cases are ‘True Emergencies’

He had suffered an ischemic stroke,the most common type. But it was also the most serious variation — referred toas a “large vessel occlusion” caused by a blood clot, according to GuilhermeDabus, M.D., an interventional neuroradiologist at MiamiNeuroscience Institute, part of Baptist Health South Florida.

“Robertwent through this sophisticated CAT scan that basically showed that he didn’thave any bleeding,” explains Dr. Dabus. “But he did have a very largeclot blocking one of the main vessels on the right side of his brain. Like withmany of these cases, he was disabled at the time. He was extremely symptomatic.He was not moving his left side and he couldn’t speak well. These types ofcases are true emergencies. The faster you act, the faster you go in and we canopen up or unblock the vessel to restore the blood flow to the brain, thegreater the chance that the patient will have a meaningful recovery.”

That’sexactly what happened in Mr. Wright’s case. He immediately underwent aprocedure to remove the clot called thrombectomy. And it went very well forhim. Mr. Wright went through some tough days after being released from BaptistHospital, including bouts of near-fainting or overall weakness that required acouple of short stays back at the hospital where he received I.V. fluids. Now,nearly three months after his stroke, his life is close to normal again, as hecontinues physical therapy sessions.

Dr. Dabuspoints out that he has seen COVID-19 patients with serious symptoms from thecoronavirus who also are stricken with strokes, although these cases representa small percentage of patients with COVID-19.

“There’sa lot we’re learning about the link between COVID-19 and strokes,” saidDr. Dabus. “We’ve noticed that patients who have COVID do have anincreased tendency of having a stroke. It’s still not very common for patientswith COVID-19 — it’s about 3 percent of the patients. Many of these strokeshave been very severe, and a lot of those patients develop large vesselocclusions (when a larger artery in the brain is blocked), and unfortunately,most of them are not doing well.”

COVID-19and Blood Clots

Studies haveindicated that COVID-19 may cause strokes as a result of a “hypercoagulablestate” as well as the effect of the virus in the vessel wall that iscaused by the infection says Dr. Dabus. That means that blood clots form easilythroughout the body. “Some patients have multiple problems, such aspulmonary embolisms (a blockage of vessels in the lungs by blood clot) and DVT(deep Vein thrombosis), when veins in the legs become blocked,” he said.

Mr. Wright isgrateful he is recovering from such a serious stroke, but does wonder about thepossible COVID-19 connection. “I certainly wasn’t a candidate for astroke. It really makes you wonder why I had it. I think I’m leaning towardsbeing a COVID patient (as the cause).”

His primaryfocus now is to get back to his regular daily routine as a police officer,family man and fitness enthusiast.

“I haven’tgone out for any long runs yet, but I’m doing some walking,” he says.“I’m also doing some physical therapy and mild exercise. Now, I’m stableagain. I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things.

“I amvery thankful much for having such a professional team of medical staff tointervene so that I could have a healthier rest of my life.”

Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

Language Preference / Preferencia de idioma

I want to see the site in English

Continue In English

Quiero ver el sitio en Español

Continuar en español