NEWINGTON - A sudden interruption of blood flow to the brain presented town resident Bob Newbold a new purpose. March 20, 2017: the day that could have been his last began with a baptism in Boston and ended inside Hartford Hospital.
An agent at Thomas Fahy Insurance Associates in West Hartford, Newbold was walking back to his desk after accomplishing a task across the room. Besides a strange feeling in his right side, that walk is the last thing he remembers.
“I don’t usually notice the position of my hands,” Newbold recalled. “My left hand was where it should be, but where’s my right arm? It’s just hanging there.”
Sudden weakness in one side of the body soon became two, as his left leg went out and Newbold collapsed to the floor. Thankfully his wife and a fellow co-worker stopped into the office and found him unable to walk or speak. They dialed 911 immediately.
Emergency medical technicians determined Newbold was suffering from a stroke and rushed him to Hartford Hospital’s Comprehensive Stroke Center.
Doctors found a blood clot in his brain, known as an ischemic stroke – the most common of three different types. Less frequent are hemmorhagic strokes, when a blood vessel in the brain leaks. The last type, known as TIA, is a temporary blockage of blood flow in the brain that lasts less than an hour and causes no permanent damage.
Newbold was administered Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA) and doctors performed a mechanical thrombectomy to remove the clot. This procedure is only performed at two hospitals in Connecticut, Hartford and Yale-New Haven.
“They used this miraculous technology and I lived to talk about it,” Newbold said.
He regained speech the very same day and was discharged from the hospital two days later. He returned to work part time the following week and has since fully recovered. Interventional neuro-radiologist Dr. Daniel Lee performed the life-saving procedure and vascular neurologist Dr. Isaac Silverman is monitoring Newbold over the next few months.
“His case is really what we hope for,” Dr. Silverman said Wednesday.
While Hartford Hospital doctors perform the same procedure one to three times a week, they don’t often see patients make such a quick and complete recovery, according to Silverman.
“It is uncommon we get such a great outcome, so that is encouraging,” he said.
For Newbold and his family, it was a second lease on life.
He is now a proponent for the hospital’s stroke center and raising awareness about prevention and early response. After all, tPA can only be administered within three hours after symptoms appear.
Spreading the word
“I’ve given my life to spreading the word,” Newbold said. “I think God had a plan for me; it’s time for this guy to know he’s not invincible. I don’t know why my lucky number came up but maybe He recognized I would be able to do a little PR for him.”
As the self-described “positive outcome person,” Newbold is continuing to spread the word. He shared his story with Steve Parker on WTIC-AM 1080 and with Mill Pond Church pastor Joel Rissinger on WSDK-AM 1550. He also spoke at Hartford Hospital’s 16th annual Living with Stroke Symposium, held the first week of May.
It was not Pastor Joel’s first introduction to this sensitive topic. His father and grandfather both died of strokes, and both at age 77. His mother also had a stroke, along with both his grandparents.
“I’ve had this in the family and so when I heard what happened to you I was expecting to walk into the hospital room and just pray, because you wouldn’t be able to walk and talk,” he told Newbold during the show. “When you said, ‘come on in!’ I thought, do I have the right Bob?”
“God has a plan for you; he wants you here,” Rissinger went on to tell his guest.
The Hospital of Central Connecticut is a certified stroke center, which means tPA is available there as well. Stroke coordinator Kristen Hickey is part of a statewide task force working on the passage of Senate Bill 34, to recognize these facilities and increase widespread knowledge of their locations.
“The ultimate goal is to have every hospital in Connecticut certified as a stroke center,” Hickey said.
Although stroke does not discriminate by age, those most at risk are middle-aged to older adults who have high blood pressure, diabetes or an irregular heartbeat. The most common symptoms include sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, such as the arm or leg. When it occurs in the facial muscles, this can appear similar to Bell ’s palsy. Sudden confusion and loss of speech, eyesight or balance can also occur.
Once any of these symptoms becomes apparent, getting to a hospital is vital. A stroke damages 1.9 million brain cells every minute treatment is delayed. For some, recovery can take a lifetime. Those who receive treatment quickly, like Newbold, may still recover fully.
“I just want other people to know you can come out of this unscathed,” he said. “I did.”
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, or firstname.lastname@example.org.