EVERETT — Patt Bass had just gotten out of the shower on the morning of Sept. 15.
She needed to get ready for a meeting. But Bass, 68, couldn’t dry herself. She couldn’t move her arms. She walked from the bathroom to the bed, hoping that would help. It didn’t.
If not for a new surgery program at Providence Regional Medical Center Everett, she could be paralyzed.
It wasn’t until hours later that the Camano Island resident overheard doctors at the hospital and realized she had suffered a “massive stroke.” Bass remembers some things about that day.
“My brain was like, ‘What the hell,’” she said in an interview.
She knows she tried to go back to the bathroom, but fell “like a tree,” bruising her right arm and shoulder. Her husband came upstairs and asked her what was wrong. Bass said her brain was telling her mouth to say, “I don’t know,” but her mouth just couldn’t do it.
“Why can’t I talk and why can’t I move?” Bass thought.
Her eyes were going in different directions. Bass’ husband realized something was wrong and called 911. Paramedics rushed her to Providence. There, she overheard the doctors tell her husband she had suffered a stroke. They explained if she didn’t get a surgery called a thrombectomy, she could be paralyzed. She described the feeling as “way above being scared.”
She got the procedure to remove the blood clot that caused her sudden stroke.
“Next thing I knew I was in the … recovery room,” Bass said.
Hospital workers stood over her as she woke up.
“Can you talk!” they shouted.
“Stop yelling,” Bass responded.
They started “jumping around like a couple of kids,” ecstatic that she could talk again.
Dr. Yince Loh performed the procedure on Bass. He said she could have been disabled or died.
Providence started its 24/7 thrombectomy program in January. As of last week, doctors there had performed 47 procedures, Loh said. A description of the surgery is not for the squeamish. It entails inserting a device into a blood vessel in the patient’s groin, moving it up the body to the brain, finding the blood clot and sucking it out.
A Denver specialist told The Wall Street Journal a successful thrombectomy could have the same effect treating strokes as penicillin did for infections.
Starting Oct. 1, Providence started transferring patients for stroke treatment from hospitals to the north that can’t perform the surgery.
Last year, when the hospital didn’t have the program, 80 patients were sent from Everett to Seattle for care.
Travel time can make a big difference, Loh said. Studies have found outcomes worsen every 15 minutes without the operation. Symptoms to look for include speech issues; double vision; and numbness in the arms, legs or face.
In an interview, Bass effusively expressed thanks to the emergency responders who rushed her to the hospital. And she credited her husband’s quick thinking to call 911.
Before her stroke, she said she walked 30 miles in a week. She didn’t like being in a hospital bed. So she walked around Providence’s intensive care unit. Then she walked it again, in the other direction.
Within three days of being rushed to the hospital, she checked out.
Bass tries to golf once or twice a week. But she wouldn’t call herself an avid golfer.
She asked her doctors if she could play in a tournament the following Tuesday, just six days after her stroke. The doctors discussed it and decided it would be OK.
She joked that the stroke gave her competitors a fighting chance, but Bass won the tourney.
These days, she said, she feels about the same as before the stroke happened six weeks ago.
“I really feel like nothing happened.”