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Have you heard of Neurointerventional Radiology? It can be life-saving for stroke patients

An 89-year-old woman has no side effects from a stroke thanks to FAST action and a certain medical procedure

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — If you think someone is having a stroke then you have to act fast: F-A-S-T.

"FAST stands for face, arms, speech, and time. So you have to check the person's face to see if they have any facial droop, check their arms to see if they have any arm weakness, check their speech to see if they have any trouble talking, and then the T for time is you have to get to the hospital as soon as possible," Robert Hixson said.

Dr. Hixson is a Neurointerventional Radiologist with Vista Radiology and part of the Stroke Team at Fort Sanders. 

He played a key roll in an 89-year-old woman's recovery.

LaVerne Van Dorselaer was enjoying lunch at the Red Robin restaurant at Turkey Creek when it happened. 

"I just could not grasp the hamburger and my daughter, God bless her, she had just heard about what happens in a stroke so she rushed over to my side," she said. 

A quick call to 911 then an ambulance rushed LaVerne Van Dorselaer to Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center.

"I didn't know I had had a stroke," she said. "I always thought when you had a stroke they go into your head and you lose your hair and your scalp. But obviously, thank God for Dr. Hixson, he did the other procedure which I never knew could have been done." 

Credit: WBIR
Dr. Robert Hixson at Vista Radiology studies a brain scan

Dr. Hixson said, "It was really a game changer. It's one of the biggest paradigm shifts in all of medicine that's ever happened."

He removed a clot that was blocking blood flow to part of her brain. He inserted a long tube, a catheter, through an artery in her groin up to her brain using digital images to guide him. 

"She went home from the ICU less than 24 hours after I did the procedure on her. She did great," he said. 

LaVerne said, "I felt wonderful after it."

This is her full interview.

To stay healthy, Dr. Hixson suggested LaVerne build up to walking 30-minutes a day. Her family ran with that idea. 

"How do we help her do that? Well, we walk with her. And we do it in solidarity. And that leads to our family being somewhat competitive. It's like, hey, let's make this is a game or a contest," Traci Van Dorselaer said.

Credit: WBIR
LaVerne Van Dorselaer's family has rallied around her since she had a stroke

They decided to throw in ten bucks each as an incentive to walk with the money going to Dr. Hixson's medical group. 

"Ten dollars over the next 20 days we will walk 30-minutes a day. 10-20-30 for Vernie. So we show her support and we walk," Traci said. 

The idea of 10, 20, 30 for Vernie turned into a t-shirt with those words on the front and a list of stroke awareness signs on the back.

"We're hopefully building awareness and educating people on this is what happens and this is what you need to look for in a stroke. So not only are we making a little game of it amongst our little family 10-20-30 but we're hopefully building awareness," Traci said. 

They are taking the stroke awareness message from the t-shirt and putting it on refrigerator magnets which available for a donation of $10 or more. 

Credit: WBIR
The back of this shirt lists the signs someone is having a stroke

LaVerne said, "I thought, OK, why would God save me? And I thought this is what he saved me for: to make other people aware like I wasn't of exactly what a stroke is. There is no pain. There are no warning signs. It just happens."

And if it happens, be FAST. 

Research shows about 2 million brain cells died every minute during a severe stroke.