Stroke victims living normal lives thanks to new UIHC procedure - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Stroke victims living normal lives thanks to new UIHC procedure

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

As an active 29-year-old, Mailis Warland never expected to have a stroke in her Kirwood College classroom last April.

"I would try to look straight towards my professor, and all I could see was just things on my left side," she recalled.

Warland is from the country Estonia.

Thousands of miles away from her family, she was taken to the University of Iowa hospital.

That's where she underwent a new, unique thrombectomy to remove a blood clot from a vessel in her brain.

"On the case of Mailis, she had a dissection, which is a tear on the vessel from doing heavy exercise," said Dr. Santiago Ortega, who helped perform the operation on Warland. "and that tear formed a clot and occluded a major artery."

The thrombectomy involved sticking a tiny catheter into the blocked vessel in Warland's brain and pulling the clot out.

The catheter used in this new procedure is just 2 millimeters wide -- the size of the very tip of a crayon.

Dr. Ortega says the technique is similar to procedures used to stop heart attacks, except it's done on the brain.

He says the key is acting fast -- the technique can help stroke victims within 6 hours of the stroke, and doubles the chances of them having normal lives.

"Dr. Ortega, he's my hero," Warland said.

Ortega says signs that point to a stroke, like weakness, numbness, and difficulty talking, should be taken seriously, and you should immediately go to the emergency room.

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