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Amazing Medicine

Bill Matthews, Dexter, Oregon

Stroke with penumbra procedure

“It was hot that day,” 70-year-old Bill Matthews recalled. “I had been working on a fence outside our home in Dexter that afternoon when my wife, Sharon, and I decided we should go to the movies to cool off.”

It was during the Tom Hanks movie "Angels and Demons" that Bill Matthews’ life changed.

“He sat up in his chair and made a funny noise, and when I asked him if he was OK, he had trouble speaking. I knew instantly that he was having a stroke,” explained Sharon.

Sharon told the movie theater employees to call an ambulance and then focused on keeping Bill calm. “It was really scary,” she said.

Paramedics took Bill to nearby Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend where Dr. Raymond Englander, medical director of Sacred Heart’s Stroke Center, explained the options.

“He told us that Bill had a clot in his brain and that we had a couple of choices to intervene and try to remove it: give him a drug to attempt to break up the clot or use a relatively new device to remove it altogether,” Sharon said.

The couple was also told they could leave the clot alone and hope that its presence would cause only minimal damage to Bill’s brain tissue.

“Bill looked at me and in a slow, drawn out manner, said, ‘Fix… it,’” Sharon recalled.

To reach the clot, doctors inserted a device called the “Penumbra” through a catheter in his groin and snaked it upward into the blocked artery near the base of his brain. The Penumbra’s job is to essentially “vacuum out” the blood clot and reopen the artery to allow blood to flow to the brain.

“Within an hour of having the stroke, the clot was gone,” recalled Sharon.

Bill spent four days recovering in the ICU at RiverBend and a few more days in one of the hospital’s private patient rooms. “It was a very beautiful and peaceful setting. As I was walking the halls during physical therapy, I enjoyed looking out the window and seeing the river and the hospital grounds,” Bill said.

After several months of physical, occupational and speech therapy, this retired Springfield elementary school teacher believes he is on track for a complete recovery.

“I’m playing the guitar again. My mind is sharp—I’m playing bridge with my friends and working on crossword puzzles. To stay in shape, I ride my stationary bike between five and six miles, several times a week,” Bill explained.

Even with all his progress, Bill knows he’s not 100 percent yet. “Some of the little things are harder these days. But I’m doing the best I can with what I have,” he said.

After 26 years of marriage and with five kids and 11 grandkids between the two of them, both Bill and Sharon are very happy he is on the road to recovery, due in part to the new penumbra procedure offered at Sacred Heart.

“I’m glad I had the procedure. I really don’t think I would have improved as well, and as quickly, without it,” said Bill.

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