Stroke treatment trial so successful, doctors at University Hospitals call it a miracle

Posted: 10:31 AM, May 31, 2017
Updated: 2017-06-09 08:08:31-04

As the American Stroke Association closes out stroke month, an important new trial will give new hope to victims of stroke. 

Doctors said it is actually not even a trial anymore because the results were so good.

Doctors at University Hospitals call it a "miracle,” so you might as well call Bessie Chervon, 82, of Eastlake, a "walking miracle."

Looking at her now, you would never guess Bessie went through open heart surgery nine months ago.

"It was scary,” she recalled. “It was very, very scary.”

And then a week later, things would take a turn for the worst.

“I fell asleep and then I woke up maybe an hour, hour and a half later. I could not talk. Couldn't speak one word," Bessie said.

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“And she stood up, initially and I looked at her and I said, 'Mom, where are you going?' And she couldn't answer me,” said her daughter-in-law, Betty Jo Chervon.

Luckily, Betty Jo was there and recognized the symptoms of stroke. She quickly called 911. Because of Bessie's surgery, she couldn't take any clot-busting medication, but University Hospitals said she was a perfect candidate for the DAWN trial.

“Patients were chosen to be eligible for this study if they had some special brain imaging, if the imaging showed that there was salvageable and treatable brain tissue, patients were entered into this study,” explained UH Stroke Center Director, Dr. Cathy Sila.

As part of the DAWN study, Bessie was randomized into the treatment group. A device kind of like a tiny Chinese finger puzzle was inserted up into her brain, where it grabbed the clot and pulled it out. She went from not being able to speak or use her right side -- to virtually back to normal the next day.

“It's amazing,” said Betty Jo. “The doctors at University said she could be a poster for the DAWN study.”

And right away, Bessie was determined to go back to life as she knew it.

“They wanted me to go to a nursing home,” she told us. “I said no. I'm not going to no nursing home. I'm going back to my apartment where I have everything right there. It's all on one floor and I don't want to be bothered by anybody. I just want to go home.”

Results like Bessie's are the reason the trial was stopped.

Doctor Sila said the initial plan was to have 500 patients participate. But after just 200, the results showed such a dramatic benefit to the treatment, it would have been unethical not to offer it to the control group.

“For people for whom this treatment is the right thing to do, it is literally a miracle,” Dr. Sila said.

“And now I just want to continue living my life the way I am now and I'm hoping I get through it,” Bessie explained. “I got through it, now I want to put it in back of me and get started on something else. I don't want to sit and worry about this whole thing.”

The risk of stroke doubles with each decade after the age of 55 but one-third of stroke victims are young people.

Some of the risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, cigarette smoking, unhealthy eating and not getting enough exercise.

The most common warning signs are weakness or numbness on one side of the body, slurred speech or difficulty speaking, or a sudden, severe headache.