Illana Cohen (pictured above) embodied what most would consider the ideal picture of health. The 43-year-old Delray Beach resident goes to the gym at least twice a week and has had few situations requiring hospitalization. But that all changed in late April, when the Boca/Delray-area realtor began to feel ill, and her two adult daughters and family doctor advised her to go to the emergency room.
Luckily, her youngest daughter was able to drive her to Boca Raton Regional Hospital  soon after the onset of her troubling symptoms, which included a headache, light headedness, and difficulty holding things with her right hand.
Upon her arrival, the medical team in the Emergency Department went straight to work to determine what was causing Ms. Cohen’s symptoms. Immediately, she was evaluated by the ED staff and neurology team, which then requested a chest X-ray, an EKG, blood tests to check her heart enzymes, a CT and MRI of her brain — which revealed she had had a left posterior frontal lobe stroke.
It quickly became evident to Ms. Cohen’s husband Samy Dwek that they were not in just any emergency room.
“I’ve lived all over the world – Paris, Monaco, Milan and Geneva – and have had surgeries at other hospitals, and Boca Regional is special,” he said. “The way they treated my wife, diagnosed her with an ischemic stroke right away and admitted her for follow-up care was really remarkable.”
Mr. Dwek, who serves on the Board of Trustees of the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Foundation and is a major donor to the hospital, watched in awe as the team cared for his wife.
“Those nurses, physicians and techs who cared for Illana didn’t know, or care, that I was a donor,” he said. “I am certain they treat all the patients who come there with the same attention and care that they showed Illana and me.”
Once she was stabilized, Ms. Cohen went to the patient floor of Marcus Neuroscience Institute  within the hospital. It’s a patient-care unit staffed by nurses who are specially trained to care for stroke patients.
“I quickly learned from these incredible nurses that the first 48 hours following a stroke are the most critical to stopping damage,” Mr. Dwek said. “Every nurse who came into Illana’s room was incredibly caring, and the nurses weren’t the only ones, either. It was like a family. Each person supported the others and that really showed through.”
Mr. Dwek witnessed his wife’s condition improve over the next two days, as she worked with speech, physical and occupational therapists who got her walking, talking and functioning with everyday tasks. She was able to go home two days later.
“The protocols they have in place there really helped restore her,” he said. “She still has work to do until her full recovery, but she left the hospital with minimum damage.”
Ms. Cohen will continue her therapy on an outpatient basis, and her doctors will work to find the cause of her stroke to prevent any future problems, but her family is so grateful for the team at Boca Raton Regional Hospital and Marcus Neuroscience Institute.
“I’m so enamored with what they did – how they cared for my wife to get her back,” Mr. Dwek said. “I want to go to the highest mountain to shout this.”
His gratitude compelled him to write a letter to hospital CEO Lincoln Mendez and Boca Raton Regional Hospital Foundation President Mark Larkin about his wife’s experience and set up a fundraiser for the hospital on Facebook, praising the care and urging people to invest in the hospital:
“I want to thank everyone at Boca Raton Regional Hospital for saving my wife. I want to thank the donors for ensuring this community hospital can save lives. I hope anyone looking to make a career as a nurse or caregiver, applies to Boca Raton Regional Hospital when considering a home. My family and I will be forever indebted and remain involved with this amazing institution. We are happy to contribute to the hospital and hope that others will join the call.”
At last count, his post garnered 418 comments and his plea raised $1,822 from 22 donors.
Mr. Dwek passionately speaks about the care that takes place at Boca Raton Regional Hospital and says other hospitals should model their hiring practices to get such compassionate nurses and caregivers.
“Taking care of patients doesn’t require a good bedside manner,” he admitted. “But these nurses and staff were ‘beyond human.’ It was a pleasure to be around them.”