MENU

Quick action saves driver suffering a stroke in rush hour traffic

PKG-HW STROKE 911.transfer_frame_4852.jpg
Sue McNeely hasn't driven a car since Feb. 10, when she suffered a stroke while driving on I-405. A State Trooper helped guide her car to a stop and medics quickly rushed her to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. (Photo: KOMO News)

BOTHELL--Sue McNeely hasn't driven a car since February 10.

"I'm a little apprehensive," she said.

That's because the last time she was behind the wheel, she suffered a stroke.

"I couldn't feel my left hand, so I was looking down," she described.

At the same time, she remembers having trouble controlling her car, heading north on Interstate 405.

"I thought it was a rut and that I'd gotten a flat tire. So, I was just trying to stay out of traffic. I saw this car in the lane next to me, and all I could think was 'don't hit the car,'" she said.

Sue was actually scraping against the guardrail, and that other car was a Washington State Patrol trooper who intentionally got into her path so she would crash into him and come to a stop.

Sue remembers the trooper smashing a window and medics climbing in to help her.

"They knew right away. They said, 'you're having a stroke and we're gonna get you help,'" she said.

That help came from Harborview Medical Center. There was a closer hospital, but Harborview has the state's only Joint Commission Comprehensive Stroke Center, meaning there's a doctor on staff 24/7 with the skills and equipment needed to treat stroke. They know, every minute counts.

"It's an immediate, absolute emergency," said Chief of Neurological Surgery Dr. Louis Kim. "Time really is brain. The longer you wait before you receive treatment, the more chances of permanent damage to your brain."

Dr. Kim said around 20-25 percent of patients respond to a clot busting drug. But, he called angioplasty "game changing technology" that helps more than 80 percent of patients who receive it in time.

Sue needed the surgery. She had a clot blocking blood flow to the part of her brain that controls strength and movement on the left side of her body.

Dr. Kim ran a catheter through her artery, grabbed the clot and removed it, restoring blood flow.

"It can immediately take a patient with acute stroke, like Mrs. McNeely and restore them to normal blood flow and normal function again, in just moments," said Dr. Kim.

Sue still suffers some pain in her left leg, but she's made a near complete recovery. She knows that's thanks to quick action by medical staff and a state trooper who recognized signs of a stroke.

"I can't thank him enough," Sue said. "My husband, my daughter, my grandchildren, we are all so thankful for him. He made a decision to save a life that day."

Click here for more information on the American Stroke Association's early warning signs of a stroke.

More To Explore