The following content is created in consultation with UConn Health. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC Connecticut's editorial staff. For more information, visit health.uconn.edu.
Strokes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States. Without UConn Health, one local man could have become part of that statistic. The American Stroke Association reports that nearly 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year, and that 130,000 people die annually, making strokes the No. 5 cause of death in the country. That means that every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke, and that every 4 minutes, it takes a life.
But as scary and unpredictable as strokes might be, it is not the end of the road for many people. Take Victor D'Occhio, 49, for example. When lifting weights, he felt a strange sensation above his right eye, like something “popped.” His twin brother Paul urged him to go get it checked out, unknowingly saving his brother’s life.
Victor got help from the Stroke Center at UConn Health. Doctors discovered that he indeed had a stroke caused by an “occlusion of the basilar artery” in the brain. This means that there was a clot in the artery that supplies the “most critical areas of the brain” with blood, says Dr. Ketan Bulsara, the Chief of Neurosurgery at UConn Health.
“He had a clot there, and if we had left it alone, he would have likely died,” said Dr. Gracia Mui,Victor’s neurologist and co-director of UConn Health's Stroke Center.
Dr. Bulsara and his team performed a lifesaving mechanical thrombectomy surgery at UConn John Dempsey Hospital in which they first removed the clot, and then reconstructed the vessels that were damaged using specialized stents. The Stroke Center at UConn Health is one of only a few hospitals in Connecticut to offer stroke patients mechanical thrombectomy surgery. “The bad thing about strokes is that it doesn’t usually hurt,” Dr. Mui says, “so it doesn’t alert you to call 911.” Acute strokes usually manifest in visual or motor impairments, behavioral abnormalities, or a loss of consciousness, which lead many to believe that it might be a migraine or regular headache, but not a stroke. Victor’s brother made the right choice in advising him to get medical attention, which Dr. Mui says is “the most important thing to do.”
As for Victor, he is now back on his feet thanks to UConn Health.
“In just a few weeks, he’s gone from where he was laying in the hospital, not being able to move his body very much, but now he’s going to be able to go back to work thanks to the therapies we provide,” said Dr. Mui.
And Victor could not be happier about it. “I feel great,” he said with a laugh. “I’d hate to be down. I have too many things to do.”
For more information about UConn Health and the stroke services they offer, visit https://health.uconn.edu/stroke-center/.