March 31, 2016

Critical care nurse springs into action when young friend suffers stroke

A 27-year-old Nashville woman is thankful a neuro critical care nurse practitioner from Vanderbilt University Medical Center was nearby when she suffered a stroke last month.

Katie Giglio, who experienced a stroke in March, was in luck when Vanderbilt nurse Melissa Wiley was nearby. (photo by Tom Wilemon)

A 27-year-old Nashville woman is thankful a neuro critical care nurse practitioner from Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) was nearby when she suffered a stroke last month.

Katie Giglio had just finished a CrossFit workout in Nashville with a group of friends, including the nurse, on March 19 and was driving to meet them for Saturday brunch when her left side suddenly went numb. From the La Hacienda parking lot, off of Nolensville Road, she texted she couldn’t get out of her vehicle. Melissa Wiley, MSN, ACNP-BC, came out to check on her.

“Katie, what’s going on?” she asked.

Slurring the words, Giglio replied that she couldn’t move her side. She repeatedly used her right arm to pick up her left arm.

The symptoms were classic, textbook indications of a stroke, Wiley said. But finding it hard to believe that her 27-year-old friend was suffering a stroke, she did a quick assessment.

Giglio asked Wiley to call her mother.

“Katie, I can’t call your mother first,” she told her. “I have to call 911.”

Emergency responders with the Nashville Fire Department were at the scene within minutes, while she was still on a second call with Giglio’s mother, Wiley said. When they began doing the same assessments she had already performed, Wiley advised them she was a neurology nurse practitioner and that her friend needed to go to the closest stroke center, at VUMC, as soon as possible.

They took her to the Vanderbilt Stroke Center, which is an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center, the highest certification level given by The Joint Commission. Giglio received tPA clot-dissolving medicine then was taken into the operating room where neurosurgeon Rohan Chitale, M.D., performed intra-arterial surgery to remove the blockage from the blood vessel in her brain.

“We found that she had a large vessel occlusion in one of the main branches of the brain that supplies a big territory in the right hemisphere,” Chitale said. “That was the reason she was having significant weakness on the left side of her body and trouble speaking. Being able to take her immediately to the operating room to take the clot out was what saved her.”

The effect was immediate after Chitale removed the clot through a process that involves putting a catheter into the femoral artery and guiding it upward to the affected vessel.

“Once he removed it, instantaneously, I got feeling back in my lips,” said Giglio, who was under conscious sedation during the procedure. “My fingers started moving again. I was able to tell them that.”

Wiley was waiting, along with members of Giglio’s family, when she came out of surgery.

“She gave me a hug with both arms,” Wiley said. “It was almost like you could not believe it had happened.”

Giglio’s mother, Audrey Giglio of Brentwood, said the family is thankful for the care her daughter received and for Wiley’s quick action.

“If she had been home by herself, we could have lost her,” said Audrey Giglio.

Chitale advised the family that without the early intervention the stroke could have been a fatal or disabling event for the 27-year-old.

“The ability to act quickly when she was immediately feeling those symptoms was what really helped her to have the best outcome possible,” he said.

Giglio said doctors had advised her that inflammation from an ulcerative colitis flare up and a medication she was taking made her more susceptible to a stroke.