New mom, 26, survives severe stroke in Gary - May 6, 2016

Courtesy of The Times • May 6, 2016

By Giles Bruce

MERRILLVILLE — Brittany Chism had her first child on New Year’s Day. Seventeen days later, she had a stroke.

The last thing the 26-year-old remembered was walking up the stairs of her Gary home and her right side going numb. Luckily for Chism, her family was there to witness the event.

“Time is brain,” said Methodist stroke coordinator Sherry Mosier, noting that Chism is the youngest patient the hospital has treated. “Anytime you don’t have blood flowing, you’re destroying neurons.”

An ambulance brought Chism to the emergency room at Methodist Hospitals Southlake Campus in Merrillviile, where the staff started administering a clot-busting drug called tPA. That medication can only be given within the first 4.5 hours after a stroke.

“The fact she was so young caught me by surprise,” said Dr. Airron Richardson, an emergency room physician at Methodist. “And her symptoms were so profound. She couldn’t move an entire half of her body. She was unable to speak.”

In Chism’s case, the tPA didn’t work. Further imaging revealed the stroke was the result of a blood clot in a large vessel of her brain. Dr. Mayumi Oka, an interventional neuorradiologist at Methodist, removed the clot using a thrombectomy device that was inserted into Chism’s groin.

Emergency room nurse Menka Trajkovski visited Chism after the procedure. “She was holding the baby. I almost started crying,” Trajkovski said.

Because of the severity of her symptoms, Chism scored high on the stroke scale, which measures the likelihood of a negative outcome. The staff at Methodist credits the short time span between Chism’s stroke and the removal of her blood clot — about three hours — for her making a full recovery. People generally have worse outcomes if their stroke isn’t witnessed, they have it in their sleep or they disregard the signs.

Oka said Chism’s stroke was likely caused by her pregnancy. Pregnant women tend to hypercoagulate, or develop blood clots, the body’s way of preventing postpartum bleeding. Other risk factors for stroke include smoking, lack of physical activity and a poor diet.

Nearly five months after her stroke, Chism is largely back to normal. “I’m little shaky when it comes to writing with a pen, but my handwriting wasn’t always the best anyway,” she said. She recently returned to her job as an assistant manager at Long John Silver’s.

More importantly, she’s had the opportunity to be a mother to her son, Isaac. That didn’t always look like it would happen.