Screening reveals stroke risk – An update on Norman

Norman and Mary Louise Clarke - carotid artery screening

Norman and Mary Louise Clarke

Norman Clarke had no reason to think that there was anything amiss when he stopped by for a preventative screening including a carotid artery screening at TMC two years ago. At 81 years old, the retired automotive engineer exercised three times a week at the gym, saw his doctor twice a year for checkups, took medication to keep his cholesterol in check – and his blood work always came back great.

He and his wife, Mary Louise, were stunned at his results of a preventative screening.

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.”

The carotid artery screening, part of the vascular wellness screening, uses an instrument called a transducer to scan the carotid artery in your neck. The transducer scans the carotid artery to check the flow of blood and can identify plaques and blockages that put you at risk for an ischemic stroke.

A stroke on the left side of Norman’s brain would have impacted the right side of his body, possibly impacting his mobility on the right side of the body, as well as speech and language problems, and memory loss.

Following the screening results, Norman’s doctor cleared the calendar to bring him in on a 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 to Michigan, where the Clarke’s spend six months of the year, 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.

Fast forward to 2017, Norman and Mary Louise are planning their return to their Tucson home from Michigan, to the magical pink mountains, the town and the network of Tucson friends, to volunteering at TMC, and to see Norman’s Tucson doctor.

Norman’s doctor monitors both the left and right carotid arteries every six months. The initial screening alerted the Clarke’s to the danger lurking in Norman’s left carotid artery. A subsequent screening has revealed a growing plaque in Norman’s right carotid artery. At this time there is no surgery planned, but monitoring is critical. Norman’s advice: “Be your own health advocate … get screened. Everything looked rosy for me, but just because your blood work is OK, it doesn’t mean everything is.”

 

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