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Patient Stories

“I am the luckiest person”

“When Sanaz woke up one morning unable to speak, she didn’t realize she was having a stroke. Luckily, her husband did, and she soon underwent life-saving surgery at St. Mike’s.”

When Sanaz woke up one morning unable to speak, she didn’t realize she was having a stroke. Luckily, her husband did, and she soon underwent life-saving surgery at St. Mike’s. 

At first, Sanaz didn’t think anything was wrong. She’d been up early that morning with her two-year-old son and felt fine. It was only when she went to wake up her husband, Tom, that she realized she couldn’t speak. “He jumped up and said, ‘What’s wrong?’” she recalls. “I thought, ‘What do you mean?’ I was talking to myself the whole time and thought I was OK. Then he said, ‘Say something NOW’—and I couldn’t.” Tom called 911 and the paramedics arrived quickly. “I remember hearing the sirens and thinking, ‘Who could they be for? Not me,’” she remembers. 

Within minutes Sanaz was rushed to St. Michael’s Emergency Department, still wondering what was wrong. “A nurse practitioner came up to me and said, ‘You’re having a stroke, but don’t worry, we’re going to take care of you.’” Soon afterward, endovascular neuroradiologist Dr. Aditya Bharatha performed surgery to remove the blood clot that caused Sanaz’s stroke: a minimally invasive procedure that involved going in through a blood vessel in her groin to access the clot in her brain. Dr. Atif Zafar, medical director of the Stroke Program at St. Michael’s, came in to see Sanaz after the surgery and gave her some very good news. “I remember Dr. Zafar saying, ‘The surgery was a success, you’ll be able to talk in an hour or two,’” Sanaz recalls. “And I recovered so fast! Within a few hours I was walking and talking and feeling good.

Sanaz is only 40, with a healthy lifestyle and no history of smoking. Now, she wants to ensure that others pay attention to the warning signs of stroke. Her advice: Remember the acronym FAST: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech changes and Time—the last of which is crucial, since getting to the hospital sooner leads to better outcomes. “If I can educate someone else, I would like that,” she says. “I am the luckiest person. I’m so thankful to my husband for acting so quickly, to the paramedics—and most importantly to this hospital. I felt that Dr. Zafar and the whole team really cared. We’re so fortunate to live in Toronto and have access to the best of the best at St. Michael’s. I really owe it all to them.

Click HERE to support Dr. Zafar’s groundbreaking stroke research and exceptional patient care at St. Michael’s Schroeder BRAIN&HEART Centre.

“I am the luckiest person”

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