Before her stroke, Jocelyn Floyd was a busy, determined lawyer who fought for the religious freedoms of her clients at the Thomas More Society in Chicago. But everything changed on October 20, 2017. After having what felt like a migraine for 10 days, she began vomiting, lost her vision and collapsed on the bathroom floor. Her neighbor called 9-1-1 and she was taken to the Emergency Department at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH).
At 36, Jocelyn had suffered an ischemic stroke. She was cared for by NCH Staff Interventional Neuroradiologist Sameer Ansari, M.D. Ph.D., Associate Professor of Radiology, Neurology, and Neurological Surgery and Director, Neuroendovascular Research and Quality at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Dr. Ansari, Medical Director of the NeuroVascular Quality Initiative of the Society of Neurointerventional Surgery, says Jocelyn’s stroke was caused by cervical arterial dissections or injuries to both arteries in the neck supplying a critical brain artery (basilar artery).
“Both blood vessels were injured forming a blood clot that migrated to the main basilar artery at the base of the brain, obstructing blood flow to the brain stem and the back of the brain,” Dr. Ansari says. “This is either fatal or results in severe neurological disability, often complete paralysis.”
Injury can occur to these neck blood vessels (carotid or vertebral arteries) spontaneously or more commonly through blunt or penetrating trauma or other causes.
Jocelyn was not a good candidate for the clot-busting drug tPA which is also usually ineffective for large blood vessel blockages, so Dr. Ansari performed a stroke intervention treatment called “mechanical thrombectomy” to remove the blood clot and reestablish blood flow to the brain. He accessed her affected brain artery through an “endovascular” minimally invasive approach by going through the artery in Jocelyn’s leg using real time X-ray imaging guidance.
Although she still has some deficits, Jocelyn is making great strides, thanks to a team of physicians, nurses and occupational therapists. “She has very few residual symptoms and she’s really made a remarkable recovery,” Dr. Ansari says.
Her mom, Nancy Floyd, recalls what it was like when she first arrived at the hospital after hearing her daughter had suffered a stroke.
“She couldn’t really see, she could only say ‘yes’ and ‘no,’ and she had no control over her right side at all,” Nancy says, adding that you could only see the whites of her eyes.
Jocelyn spent time in the ICU, neurology recovery inpatient unit, and then inpatient rehab during a six-week stay at the hospital. This was followed by two and a half months of outpatient rehab at NCH RM Physical Rehab Services. She met with three therapists for an hour each, three times a week, including Elsie Pollari who motivated Jocelyn. “I got great support from everyone at the hospital and rehab,” Jocelyn says. “I did physical therapy, occupational and speech therapy.”
Since the stroke episode in October, Jocelyn has graduated from a wheelchair to a walker to using a cane at home. She can cook scrambled eggs and cut up vegetables. “It’s really incredible to watch what has come back,” Nancy says.
Jocelyn says she’s thankful to the therapists, nurses and visits from volunteers who brought animal-assisted therapy dogs. Now she is involved with the MedFit Program at the NCH Wellness Center where her main objective is to increase her strength and stamina.
Although it’s uncommon for a patient so young to experience a stroke, Jocelyn had the most common cause for a stroke among young patients - cervical arterial dissection. “In fact, some people may be prone to cervical dissections and stroke because their blood vessels are more sensitive to injury from inherited connective tissue or collagen vascular diseases,” Dr. Ansari says.
Jocelyn will have follow-up visits with her primary care physician and neurologist and periodic scans to ensure her vertebral arteries are stable and healing. Dr. Ansari expects her to make a full recovery and return to all her normal activities within a year. “I believe she has very few deficits now and will continue to improve as she is young and motivated,” he says.
From her days in the ICU to her rehab care, Jocelyn and her parents are thankful for the thorough care and clear communication they received at NCH.
“They were taking care of her, but it was also how they took care of us,” Nancy says. “They told us what was going on, what was coming next, what the tests were for, and what to anticipate.”
Of all the worrying a mother does about her child, having a stroke was not on the list, Nancy adds. “You think about car accidents at their age,” Nancy says. “When they called us, it didn’t even occur to us that it was a stroke.”
Jocelyn pushes herself each day, working on physical stamina by exercising on various machines at the Wellness Center so she can return to work as soon as possible. “It’s been really good,” Jocelyn says. “There are a lot of people who have checked on me and helped me.”
Stroke risk factors for women include: taking birth control pills; a history of preeclampsia, hypertension or high blood pressure; taking hormone replacement therapy to relieve menopausal symptoms or osteoporosis; and migraines.
NCH holds the Stroke Care Excellence Award from Healthgrades and is in the top five percent in the nation for Treatment of Stroke for 2017 and 2018. See this and other distinctions on our awards page.
For an appointment with Dr. Ansari, call 847-618-5879 or visit the NCH website to learn more about our comprehensive stroke care.
Hear Jocelyn and her mother speak at the NCH Stroke Awareness Event, a free community event held from 5 to 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 23 in the NCH Hospital Auditorium. Enjoy food, giveaways, take part in our interactive health fair and learn chair yoga.
Seating is limited and pre-registration is required. Register online at nch.org/strokeevent or call HealthConnection at 847-618-4968.