Enduring Love Gets a Little Help

Shawano Couple ‘Grateful for more Time’ after Wife’s Stroke

By Pam Witt Hillen, flight nurse, ThedaStar

A Christmas miracle gave one long-time married couple another happy new year together. Don and Marion Nemetz celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last year, “60 wonderful years together.” With the quick actions of Don and a strong team of medical professionals, the Shawano couple is able to add another year together to their astonishing accomplishment.

On Dec. 20, Marion was baking Christmas cookies just as she has every year of their marriage. Don, in the next room, heard a moan from the kitchen followed by a loud noise. He raced in to find his wife unresponsive, slumped over the stove with a left facial droop. He eased her into a breakfast nook area and called 911. Shawano Ambulance was on scene 6 minutes later. The rest is a blur to both of them.

Upon arrival to ThedaCare Medical Center-Shawano emergency department, Marion was paralyzed on the right side and could not speak. She had a left lateral gaze. Marion was quickly assessed by Dr. William Hampton and the ED staff there: the Code Stroke protocol was initiated. A CT scan of Marion’s brain revealed a “hyperdense” left middle cerebral artery suspicious for acute thrombus or clot. Much of the left side of her brain was being deprived of blood. TPA or tissue plasminogen activator is given through an IV and works by dissolving the clot and improving blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood. TPA was started after consulting with stroke neurologist Dr. Tom Mattio in Neenah. ThedaStar took her to the designated Stroke Center at ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah

Don told his wife he loved her and thanked the entire staff for their help. He went home to wait for news of her care since he felt he could not make the drive to Neenah with all this on his mind. Marion was flown to Neenah and had Computed Tomography Angiography (CTA), which uses an injection of iodine-rich contrast material and CT scanning to help diagnose and evaluate blood vessel disease or related conditions, such as aneurysms or blockages. This study of her brain confirmed an occlusion of her left middle cerebral artery. She was taken emergently to the cath lab where interventional radiologist Dr. Doug Conners successfully removed a blood clot approximately 1.5 inches in length and completely restored blood flow through her left middle cerebral artery. Most clots usually range just millimeters in size!

With the clot retrieved, Marion miraculously regained full use of her right side and her speech returned. Don, who was at home finishing the baking of the Christmas cookies as he anxiously word of his wife, was ecstatic when he received Dr. Conners’ phone call with his incredible news. Marion was discharged home in two days. Her only deficit is slight fine motor coordination of her right hand that is improving with therapy and exercise.

Dr. Conners appreciates all components of the caregiver-team and what “good patient outcomes can be achieved when a strong team works efficiently and tirelessly together. ‘Time is Brain,’ which is why it's so important to identify a stroke and seek treatment immediately for the best possible chance at a full recovery. This is why we are all here.”  The entire staff involved in her care felt privileged to be part of a Christmas miracle a little early.

The Nemetz family is extremely grateful to everyone for “giving them more time.” They continue to “read books, watch old westerns and surely appreciate every day together.”