After a Stroke, Family Matriarch Looks toward the Future

On December 28, 2009, Barbara Hackett woke up in her South Boston apartment near Carson Beach with the same intention she has every morning. “I woke up to put the kettle on for a cup of tea, but I found that I couldn’t get up and fell down out of bed. I don’t remember anything after that,” she said.

Knowing her 82-year-old mother had not been feeling well for the past several days, Wendy Hosmer called Barbara at 8:30 a.m. from her home in Florida to remind her about her doctor’s appointment later that day. But when the answering machine kept picking up her call, she became very concerned.

“I called my sister who lives nearby to see if she could go and check on her, and she called my mother’s upstairs neighbor. It was her neighbor who found her on the floor paralyzed and unable to speak,” remembered Wendy, her calm voice slightly quavering.

The neighbor called 911, and the ambulance delivered Barbara to Boston Medical Center’s Emergency Department, where she was quickly triaged as a stroke victim. Each minute became critical for Barbara’s prognosis. Thanh Nguyen, M.D., F.R.C.P.C., director of interventional neuroradiology and interventional neurology at BMC, oversaw Barbara’s treatment.

“Since she woke up with a stroke, we couldn’t be sure when the stroke started and we couldn’t treat her with clot-busting drugs. We immediately did MRI imaging which showed that very little brain had died, but there was a large territory of brain at risk,” said Dr. Nguyen.

Because Barbara was suffering from severe physical impairments and scans showed much of her brain was still healthy but at risk for a larger stroke, Dr. Nguyen recommended an innovative intervention that uses a microcatheter and aspiration device to remove the blood clot causing her stroke. With Barbara’s daughters consent, Dr. Nguyen and her team immediately prepared Barbara for the procedure. They inserted a tiny catheter in her groin and delicately guided the aspiration device with the help of a fluoroscope to the clot in her brain. They suctioned out the clot and restored her blood supply. Within hours of procedure, Barbara was able to move her left arm and leg, and speak more clearly.

 “Barbara was very lucky to have such a caring and concerned family. If they had found her any later, it is possible that we would not have been able to offer intervention if the stroke was complete or non-salvageable. She made a remarkable recovery,” said Dr. Nguyen.

Twenty-three days later, thanks to physical therapy to help her re-learn to walk, Barbara was able to leave the hospital without the use of a walker or cane.

“Before the stroke my mother was more like an active 55-year-old, now she feels her age, she is a little shaky on her feet but nothing you would notice unless you lived day-to-day with her,” said Wendy, who has moved in with her mother to help with her care.

Today, Barbara is once again enjoying her daily cups of tea and the love and support of her family, including her three daughters, one son and her 14 grandchildren. She welcomed her 30th great grandchild who was born this past July.

“I owe my life to BMC, I am so grateful,” she said.


After surviving her stroke, Barbara Hackett was able to meet her 30th great grandchild, who was born this July.

To learn more about Boston Medical Center click here.

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