On Wednesday morning, April 10, 2013, Mark Gee got a phone call no parent ever expects to receive. His 30 year old son Andy had been found unconscious after his girlfriend tried to wake him for work.
Andy was transported by ambulance to an area hospital, where he was evaluated and transferred to a second hospital-both non-Kaleida Health facilities. He was diagnosed with venous sinus thrombosis-a type of stroke in which a clot blocks blood leaving the brain; a critical and life-threatening event.
“I can’t even express how hard it was to comprehend what my wife and I were hearing. Andy was 30 years old. How could this happen? It just didn’t seem real,” said Mark.
Physicians at the second hospital felt surgery was too risky and instead, put Andy on a blood thinning drug in hopes of dissolving the clot. After 11 hours, Andy’s father Mark asked the physician if he would be better off at another facility that specialized in Andy’s condition “and she said certainly we were entitled to another opinion. So we asked that he be transferred to the Gates Vascular Institute.”
That decision proved to be a life-saver.
“Andy was deeply comatose when he arrived, with nearly no brain reflexes,” said neurosurgeon Adnan Siddiqui, MD. “It was clear he had little to no chance of survival without surgery.”
Within two hours of arriving at the Gates Vascular Institute, Andy was in the operating room and, while his family didn’t realize it at the time, his road to recovery had finally begun.
The surgery was a resounding success. Seventy-five percent of the clot was removed, while clot busting drugs dissolved the remaining 25%.
“The Gates Vascular Institute was a completely different experience from the other two hospitals,” said Mark. “They acted quickly, deliberately, and with a lot of confidence. We knew we were in the best possible hands. The team explained everything to us throughout the whole process. I can’t say enough about how skilled they are and how grateful we are for what they did for Andy. “
After surgery and several days of initial recovery, Andy spent about four weeks in Buffalo General Medical Center’s medical rehabilitation unit where he received intensive physical, speech and occupational therapy.
“Therapy was pretty hard work after what I’d been through,” said Andy. “But every day I improved a little bit more, which really motivated me. I couldn’t wait to get home and back to my life.”
After being discharged on May 14, 2013, Andy continued rehabilitation on an outpatient basis.
Andy and his father Mark attribute much of the success of his recuperation to Andy’s girlfriend Jenn Armstrong. “She was incredibly supportive in helping him with rehab, dealing with his medications and giving him the motivation he needed to return to the life he had before,” said Mark.
Today Andy is nearly back to normal. He enjoys spending time with his friends and family and-weather permitting-taking long walks with his girlfriend’s dog Phoenix, who was an important part of Andy’s recovery-even visiting him in the hospital.
“What do you say to a group of people who saved your son’s life? Without question the Gates Vascular Institute is where you need to go for life-saving stroke treatment,” said Mark. “There is no doubt in my mind that Andy is alive today because we got him to Gates. It is absolutely the best place for stroke care.”
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