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Breakthrough surgery saves Silverdale woman’s life

By ERIN BEIL

Staff writer

Margaret Rodriguez had no idea what hit her and why she was lying on the floor.

After completing the simple task of making a macaroni salad for a barbecue her husband, Hildo, was attending that evening, Rodriguez decided to go downstairs and open a window. Then everything went black, Rodriguez was having a stroke.

“I was feeling really tired that day,” she said, adding she had thyroidectomy surgery just three days before and thought her fatigue was because of her procedure. “I turned around after opening the window and could not move.”

Rodriguez said after Hildo heard her screaming from the basement, he rushed down there to see what was wrong.

“He said I was in a twisted heap,” she said, adding that her eyesight was gone. “He tried to get me to straighten out and I couldn’t move.”

He called 911 and the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) arrived, Rodriguez said they had to carry her up the stairs curled up because they couldn’t straighten her out either. While en route to Harrison Medical Center, one of the EMTs, Scott, told her she should be prepared to go to a hospital in Tacoma.

Once at the hospital, Rodriguez said Scott talked with the emergency room doctor and convinced him that she should be immediately transported to St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Tacoma for a new surgical procedure they were conducting that helps prevent additional strokes in patients.

“Scott had just finished a class on strokes,” Rodriguez said. “He called the hospital (St. Joseph’s) and talked to my husband because if they did this procedure, I had a 96 percent chance of being OK, if I didn’t go there, I would probably die.”

Typically, stroke patients are given an injection when they enter the emergency room that helps break up the blood clot, Rodriquez said. However, because of her surgery three days earlier she was unable to have the shot administered.

After being flown to St. Joseph’s Medical Center via medical helicopter, Rodriguez underwent surgery and had a dissolving Angio-Seal vascular closure device inserted in her femoral artery to prevent a future stroke. She added this procedure had only been done at St. Joseph’s for only one year and Rodriguez’s surgeon, Dr. Arvind Nehra, who performed the procedure had only been at the medical center for two weeks.

“When they went up, I was cognizant of it,” Rodriguez said. “I could feel something at that point ... it was just like threading a needle.”

Once the clot was removed, Rodriguez said she had all of her faculties back, and woke up in the recovery room surrounded by her family.

“Emotionally, it was very painful because it was frightening and one of my biggest fears was having a stroke,” she added. “They did every test conceivable to find out why I got a stroke ... they did blood tests, a carotid artery ultrasound ... they did everything possible to find out why.”

Since the stroke-prevention surgery, Rodriquez said her rehabilitation schedule has been rigorous but her children have been with her in person and via phone 24 hours a day, seven days a week to encourage the recovery process.

“I changed my eating habits, I carry my cellphone with me everywhere and I’ve started mall walking,” she added. “Now, I’m trying to create an awareness ... we have a system in our county that really works and it’s important to support our EMTs and emergency room workers.”

In December, Rodriguez hopes to talk to Scott and thank him for his knowledge and help. She said what he did was out of character for their practice and that he went above and beyond to “save my life.”

“If Scott hadn’t called, I would’ve died,” Rodriguez said. “This was a miracle of all miracles ... I feel very blessed, God has definitely looked out for us in all ways.”

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