September 17, 2021 by John Fernandez
WWII Vet Survives a Stroke, Thanks to the Care at Marcus Neuroscience Institute
Bob Kubiak served as a fighter pilot in the 449th Bomb Group of the U.S. Air Corps during World War II. His mission was to fly over the southern part of Europe and take out Hitler’s ability to wage war. At just 20-years-old , he almost lost his life during one of his flights. Now, 96, the part-time Delray Beach resident recently survived another fight – against a stroke and time.
“He was eating breakfast and told me he thought he had had a stroke,” recalled Mr. Kubiak’s daughter, Mary Kubiak, who was with her dad at their shared condo in Delray Beach on April 19 of this year. “I called my sister Carolyn at work, and she told me to have him lift his arms, move his fingers and smile to see if there were any abnormalities. He seemed fine, though.”
“Carolyn” is Carolyn Kubiak, D.O., a primary care physician with Baptist Health Medical Group North in Boca Raton.
“When Mary called me back 10 minutes later to report that Dad was vomiting,” Dr. Kubiak said, “I knew something more was going on and advised her to call an ambulance, which she had already done.”
“I woke up in the hospital (Boca Raton Regional Hospital) when they were preparing me for surgery,” Mr. Kubiak remembered. “Next thing I knew, I was in the ICU, and they told me I had surgery because I had a stroke. I felt fine. I had no pain or no residual problems. I felt like I was a visitor there and not the patient.”
“The work up of Mr. Kubiak in the Emergency Department, which included a CT scan to show blood flow, revealed he had a clot in his brain – an ischemic stroke – that was depriving his brain of oxygen,” said Brian Snelling, M.D., chief of cerebrovascular and endovascular neurosurgery and the director of the Stroke Program at Marcus Neuroscience Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital. Dr. Snelling and his colleagues at the Institute decided the best treatment for Mr. Kubiak was to remove the clot through a catheter threaded to his brain from an artery accessed through his groin to restore blood flow.
“With these situations, we have to balance two considerations: Time is brain, so the longer someone doesn’t get help, the more damage they will likely incur; and this procedure is one of the most effective medical treatments we have in medicine. We know how poorly people with strokes do without treatment, so the path we should take with Mr. Kubiak was clear.”
Dr. Snelling said that age isn’t a factor in this type of procedure, as it has been successfully performed on people of various ages, but Mr. Kubiak’s good health probably contributed to the fact that all his symptoms went away following the procedure. In fact, he was discharged from the hospital two days after his procedure without any permanent residual damage to his speech, movement or cognition.
Dr. Snelling warns that strokes can produce a range of outcomes from full functionality, as in Mr. Kubiak’s case, to some symptoms that persist but can be reversed over time through rehabilitation, to severe disability or death.
“I was very, very, very lucky,” Mr. Kubiak said of his outcome. “I felt just normal, as if nothing was wrong with me.”
Dr. Kubiak is grateful that her dad was in Delray Beach when this happened and not in the rural area of the Town of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he lives half of the year with her sister Mary. If he had been in there, she told him, he would’ve died. “Timing is everything,” she said.
After receiving clearance from his doctors to fly back to Wisconsin two weeks after his stroke, Mr. Kubiak and Mary have settled back into Oshkosh, where he rides his bike two miles a day.
“I worked in a hospital as a pharmacist for over 30 years,” Mr. Kubiak said. “Boca Raton Regional Hospital, in my mind, had the greatest team working on me. They’re the best that there is. They have the best facility and the best surgeons. They saved my life. I am forever grateful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”