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Audrey O'Brien

"I know we've won so many awards for care,
 but if you've never experienced the actual care,
 you don't really get a true sense of how great it is."

Audrey O'Brien was recovering well from knee replacement surgery, which she had undergone on September 14, 2009. Two weeks later, she was home and had just finished a walk down the driveway with her Berkshire VNA therapist and sat down to lunch with her husband, Jack. After eating, Jack removed the dishes from the table and went into the kitchen. When he returned a few minutes later, Audrey was slumped over. He immediately called their daughter, Lori O'Brien, who lives next door.

"I knew right away she had suffered a stroke," said Lori, the coordinator of BMC's Institutional Review Board. "Her left side was drooping. Dad had called 911 and she was at BMC very quickly."

The immediate prognosis wasn't promising. Because Audrey had her knee surgery only two weeks before, she was, by guidelines, not a candidate for the clot-busting and life-saving drug tPA, which should only be administered if the patient has not had surgery in the past three months. "After consulting with the BMC pharmacy and Dr. Kevin Mitts, who had performed her knee surgery, Dr. Emma Weiskopf, her neurologist, said tPA was perhaps her only chance for survival. We said yes, and it was the right thing to do."

Beating the odds, the then 72-year-old suffered no complications from the tPA treatment, and remained stable following her stroke, but was not out of the woods. Her carotid artery was 99% blocked, which had likely led to the stroke. Dr. Michael Cohn performed a carotid endarterectomy to clear the blockage, a risky but necessary procedure for someone so fragile. Again, Audrey pulled through, and went on to the BMC inpatient rehabilitation unit, where she had physical, occupational, and speech therapy to help her cope with the disabling effects of the stroke.

"The therapists inspired and encouraged me to work hard," said Audrey, her fighting spirit very evident just over a year later. "You can't give up and you need to keep a positive attitude. You need to continue to work hard each and every day - good days and bad. Every employee I encountered at BMC was kind and helpful."

"We had a lot of ups and downs, but as a BMC employee, I was absolutely amazed at the great care Mom received in the Emergency Department," said Lori. "From the time we walked in the door, they were immediately there taking care of her. Right away, the stroke care coordinator was here, Dr. Weiskopf was there, everything happened so smoothly. They were incredible. Later in her care, the therapists were wonderful. Her care was seamless. I know we've won so many awards for care, but if you've never experienced the actual care, you don't really get a true sense of how great it is."

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