Patient Stories

Linwood woman thanks all involved for saving her brain – and her life 

Carol Kull, of Linwood, New Jersey, had a brain aneurysm. She says a neighbor, collaboration among hospitals and advanced minimally invasive surgery at the AtlantiCare Neurosciences Institute – and her dog - saved her life after the aneurysm ruptured.

Kull, 50, says her dog Cody woke her uncharacteristically early the morning of April 13. “He wanted to walk and took me down a street I hadn’t been down before then,” said Kull. “He must have known something was wrong.” That’s all Kull remembers.  The rest she learned from her family and a neighbor while she recovered at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center (ARMC), Atlantic City Campus from a brain bleed caused by a ruptured aneurysm.

“A neighbor I’d never met, Pat Stephanik, came to my rescue,” said Kull. “Pat heard Cody barking and found me on the ground outside her home at 4:30 a.m. She dialed 911.” ARMC Emergency Medical Services (EMS) paramedics accompanied her to Shore Memorial Hospital in Somers Point. The Shore team stabilized Kull and ARMC EMS transported her to the Harrah’s Regional Trauma Center at ARMC Atlantic City Campus, where the AtlantiCare Neurosciences Institute is also located.

Ciro Randazzo, MD, MPH, endovascular neurosurgeon, AtlantiCare Neurosciences Institute and instructor Department of Neurological Surgery, Thomas Jefferson University, was among the team diagnosing and treating Kull. Randazzo, one of less than 100 surgeons dual-trained in endovascular and neurosurgery in the country, said it was fortunate that Kull’s neighbor found her. 

She was in a coma when she arrived and was developing hydrocephalus – or water on the brain. “The ruptured aneurysm caused reduced drainage of Ms. Kull’s cerebral spinal fluid, which increased pressure in her brain, so we needed to drain the fluid immediately to protect her,” explained Randazzo.

The team then conducted an angiogram, a brain imaging test that shows the brain’s blood vessels in intimate detail. The test showed a brain aneurysm – a weak area in the wall of an artery in her brain. It had had ruptured, releasing blood into her brain and causing a bleeding, or hemorrhagic stroke. 

The team used a minimally invasive procedure to treat her aneurysm from within the blood vessel called coil embolization, or coiling.

“We used real-time fluoroscopic imaging, to see Ms. Kull’s vascular system,” said Randazzo. “Using x-ray guidance and tiny catheters we inserted five coils into the weak part of the artery to block the blood flow into the aneurysm. The flexible platinum coils take on the shape of the aneurysm and stop the flow of blood.” Randazzo said this minimally invasive method of embolization took less than two hours to perform.

In traditional treatment for aneurysm, surgeons remove a section of the skull, separate brain tissue and clip the artery to stop the flow of blood. “This procedure is much more invasive, can take up to six hours long to perform and causes a longer recuperation for patients,” said Randazzo. “Patients who have traditional surgery generally have a longer hospital with more time in the intensive care unit.”

Kull left the hospital May 1.

“Ms. Kull had a grade four subarachnoid hemorrhage – meaning she was very sick,” said Randazzo. “It was fortunate she got to the hospital quickly so that she could get the right treatment. By stopping the bleeding we were able to minimize damage to her brain.”

Randazzo said symptoms of a ruptured brain aneurysm include, “an excruciating, explosive headache – one like you’ve never experienced.” He said other common symptoms include:

  • nausea and vomiting
  • stiff neck or neck pain
  • sensitivity to light
  • loss of sensation
  • sudden weakness
  • sudden loss of consciousness

Randazzo said heeding symptoms of aneurysm is critical. “If it has not ruptured, monitoring and/or treatment could prevent it from rupturing.” Once an aneurysm does rupture, getting treatment fast can prevent brain damage, risk of recurrence and even death.

Known risk factors for aneurysm ruptures include family history, having had a previous aneurysm, and being a smoker,” said Randazzo. “It often strikes people in their 40s and 50s who are in the prime of their life. Fortunately we have the experienced team and advanced technology to treat aneurysms – the key is getting to the hospital quickly to get the diagnosis and treatment.

“Don’t ignore symptoms – dial 911 for symptoms of aneurysm or stroke. Your life depends on it.”

Kull echoed Randazzo’s advice and thanked all involved for making sure she had the appropriate treatment quickly. “I believe God used all involved  – including my neighbor Pat, the 911 dispatcher, the ambulance and EMS teams, and the doctors and staff at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center and Shore Memorial Hospital - and of course my dog - to save my life.”

About ARMC’s Comprehensive Stroke Center designation

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has designated ARMC City Campus, Atlantic City – home of the AtlantiCare Neurosciences Institute -  a comprehensive stroke center, and ARMC Mainland Campus, Pomona, a primary stroke center.

As an NJDHSS designated comprehensive stroke center, ARMC City Campus, which is also home to the AtlantiCare Neurosciences Institute, provides all the services of a primary stroke center. It also provides specialized care for patients who experience complex strokes including the following:

  • A neurosurgical team capable of assessing and treating complex stroke and stroke-like syndromes 24 hours a day, seven days a week – the only hospital that does so locally
  • Neuro-imaging services with a special procedures suite equipped for neuro-interventional and minimally invasive procedures that is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As an NJDHSS designated primary stroke center ARMC Mainland Campus provides the following care and support services that ARMC Atlantic City Campus also provides as an NJDHSS designated comprehensive stroke center:

  • An acute stroke response team.
  • Board-certified neurologists and radiologists.
  • Neurology and Emergency staff are trained in diagnosis and treatment of acute stroke.
  • Offers neuro-imaging services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Acute care rehabilitation services.
  • Has the ability to rapidly transport to ARMC City Campus, a Comprehensive Stroke Center.
  • Tracks outcomes for quality improvement and evaluation of stroke patients.
  • Demonstrates a continuing commitment to ongoing education to the general public about stroke.

About ARMC’s Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval™  - ARMC also earned the Gold Seal of Approval™ from The Joint Commission for Primary Stroke Centers. The Joint Commission’s Primary Stroke Center Certification is based on the recommendations for primary stroke centers published by the Brain Attack Coalition and the American Stroke Association’s statements/guidelines for stroke care.  

About the AtlantiCare Neurosciences Institute - Expanding on its strengths in the treatment of stroke, AtlantiCare established a Neurosciences Institute. It uses the most advanced technology to diagnose and treat stroke and stroke-like syndromes and other neurological disorders of and/or injuries to the brain and spine 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  

 

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