Stroke Center saves local man...twice

By Lynn R. Parks

On Christmas Day, children and grandchildren of Brad and Mitzie Diogo will pile into the Diogos' home, like "clowns out of little clown cars," said their daughter Joy Conway. "We will even bring our pets," she added. And father and grandfather Brad Diogo, 51, will be there, even doing most of the cooking for the gathering. He will enjoy the party, despite having recently suffered two strokes. "I feel great," said Diogo, who lives near Greenwood. "Tests show that I haven't suffered any effects from the strokes." That's because, he added, he received nearly immediate treatment to dissolve the blood clots that caused his strokes. In both instances, he went to Nanticoke Memorial Hospital and its newly-certified stroke center for treatment. Early treatment can ward off neurological damage that can be caused by a stroke, also called a brain attack. The Nanticoke stroke center's guidelines require that a person who comes into the emergency department with stroke symptoms be seen by a doctor within 10 minutes. The patient has to have a CAT scan to check for problems in the brain within 25 minutes and that CAT scan has to be interpreted within 20 minutes. If the patient would be helped by a drug to eliminate blood clots, the drug has to be administered within an hour. Diogo said that in the case of his first stroke, he was given the clot-busting drug in less than 30 minutes after arriving at Nanticoke, about 45 minutes after his symptoms started. In the second instance, treatment was delayed because doctors had to be certain that the drug wouldn't cause bleeding at an injury to his side that he had received earlier. He received the clot buster about an hour and 20 minutes after his symptoms had started and after doctors had evaluated x-rays of his ribs. "Tests show no damage to his brain from either of the strokes," said Conway, who also lives near Greenwood. "They did a fabulous job here." This is exactly the outcome that Nanticoke wanted from its stroke center, which was opened in February and which on Oct. 10 became the first such center in Delaware to be certified by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals. The stroke center at Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury is also certified by the commission. "In treating a stroke, time is of the essence," Annedreea Webber, Nanticoke's stroke coordinator and director of progressive care, said at the time of the certification. "It's really important to determine and treat whatever is causing the symptoms to prevent a full-blown stroke and neurological damage." Strokes are the nation's third-leading cause of death, behind heart problems and cancer.

According to the American Stroke Association, each year about 795,000 Americans have strokes and 143,000 people every year die from them. Leading risk factors for strokes include high blood pressure and smoking. Warning signs include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arms or legs, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion or trouble talking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing from one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking; sudden dizziness or loss of balance; or sudden, severe headache with no known cause. Diogo's first stroke occurred Oct. 30, just after he and his wife had finished dinner. He got up from the table and all of a sudden "my ears started ringing and my vision was blurry," he said. "That's about the last thing I remember." Mitzie, who is certified in CPR and first aid and teaches at the SCOPE North Alternative School in Bridgeville, understood that her husband needed immediate treatment. She called her parents, John and Marian Green, who live next door and after she helped her husband walk to the car, John Green drove them to Nanticoke, about a 20-minute drive. "They took me into the emergency room in a wheelchair and nurses took me right back to an examining room," Diogo said. It wasn't until the next afternoon that Diogo fully regained consciousness. "I had a little trouble speaking and a little trouble with my leg and arm," he said. He spent five days in the hospital and for a week after that went to the rehabilitation center at Milford Memorial Hospital to regain use of his arm and leg. The second stroke happened not a month later, on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. When Diogo started having the same symptoms he had had before, his wife loaded him up in the car and had a cousin drive them to the hospital. This time, he spent three days in Nanticoke. Doctors are trying to figure out why Diogo is having strokes. He does not have high blood pressure and does not smoke and "all of my tests have come back negative," he said. Information about his case has been sent to doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for evaluation. Meanwhile, Diogo is keeping active. While his doctors have told him not to drive, he continues to work as best he can as a contractor and mason. He takes daily one and a half mile walks and is looking forward to Christmas gatherings with his family. A survivor of cancer and a heart attack, Diogo said that he is putting into practice lessons he learned in dealing with previous illnesses. "I don't know what's going to happen, but you can't stop living," he said. "Every day that I'm here is a good day."

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