Norman Clarke is a healthy, active 81-year-old who enjoys hikes in Sabino Canyon, outings to the symphony and visits with friends.
The retired automotive engineer exercises three times a week at the gym. He sees his doctor twice a year for checkups. He takes medication to keep his cholesterol in check – and his blood work always comes back great.
But when he heard from a friend at the gym that Tucson Medical Center would be doing its annual free stroke prevention screenings for the community the next day, which was April 16, he and his wife, Mary Louise, thought it couldn’t hurt to go.
They were stunned at the results.
As expected, his labs and EKG came back fine. But a scan of his carotid artery showed a blockage of more than 70 percent on the left side.
“I was shocked. There had been no symptoms and nothing to indicate this was a problem,” Norman recalled. “It was serendipity that we went that day, because I would never have known otherwise about the great risk I was facing.”
Norman already has some mild gait difficulty with his left foot. A stroke on the left side would have impacted his right side, as well, possibly impacting his mobility on the right side of the body, as well as speech and language problems and memory loss.
His doctor cleared the calendar to bring him in Monday morning, and by Monday afternoon, he was having a scan of his arteries. The news was even worse than he had learned initially: the blockage was 90 percent.
Instead of being on a plane going back home to Michigan, as the Clarke’s had anticipated, Norman was scheduled for surgery. The 90-minute surgery, known as a carotid endarterectomy, required one night of hospitalization and a week of good behavior at home: no lifting or dragging of heavy objects and listening to every instruction from Mary Louise, a former medical-surgical nurse and retired nursing professor.
Mary Louise said she was impressed the morning of Stroke Prevention Saturday to see how the TMC staff and volunteers mobilized to help the community’s seniors – from the volunteers registering guests, to the physicians, pharmacist, neurology nurses, lab services and ultrasound staff and more who volunteered their own time on a Saturday morning to make a difference.
“They should be proud to know they saved my husband from a catastrophic event,” she said. “It is because of the efforts of the TMC Senior Services that his life was spared from a stroke or even worse.”