By Louie St. George III
Lying on the bedroom floor of his Moose Lake home, a suddenly vulnerable Larry Slater was perplexed — and paralyzed. Only moments before, he and his wife, Karen, had been preparing to go shopping. Discomfort, then an abrupt fall, changed all that. He watched helplessly as Karen called 911.
“I could hear her talking and I could see her, but I couldn’t move at all,” Larry said.
It was July 15, and a severe stroke — prompted by a blood-vessel clot blocking blood flow to his brain — befell the 71-year-old retired realtor. Larry first was transported to Mercy Hospital in Moose Lake, where he was given intravenously a clot-busting drug called alteplase. From there, he was transferred to Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth.
Dr. Vikram Jadhav, an interventional vascular neurologist, and his experienced team were waiting to perform a stroke thrombectomy that ultimately removed the clot and restored blood flow within 49 minutes of Larry’s arrival at Essentia.
It was August 2018 that Dr. Jadhav came to Essentia, which received Advanced Thrombectomy-Capable Stroke Center certification from the Joint Commission this past fall. Essentia is the only facility north of the Twin Cities certified to remove clots from blood vessels in the brain, thereby re-establishing blood flow. This certification requires that Essentia offer 24-7 stroke care with the highest and most-stringent standards.
Without that guarantee, Larry likely would have had to travel further for his thrombectomy, and in stroke care there’s a saying that “time is brain.” For every minute left untreated, a large-vessel stroke kills about 2 million brain cells. His quality of life almost certainly wouldn’t be what it is today.
Larry is back to his favored hobbies of hunting, cooking, carpentry and spending time with his family. In fact, when he was reached by Essentia about sharing his “story” early in November, Larry was perched in his deer stand.
“Sure,” he replied, “but call back after deer hunting season.”
Upon doing so, Larry was happy to report that he harvested a 10-point, 210-pound buck — “the biggest deer I ever shot,” he said.
Just one day after his surgery, Dr. Jadhav “told me within a few months you’ll be doing everything you used to do, like nothing ever happened,” Larry recalled. “And he was right.”
Which is especially remarkable considering Larry initially struggled to spell even basic words, like “dog,” before six weeks of intense speech therapy at Mercy Hospital. And while a slight speech impediment lingers, it shouldn’t last.
Both Larry and Karen were grateful for the care he received, both at Essentia and Mercy. The coordination, combined with Karen’s quick thinking after spotting her husband on the floor, then Mercy’s swift response, prevented what could have been a vastly different outcome.
“It was like clockwork,” he said. “I’m a very lucky guy.”
The couple will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next May. That fact led Larry to joke that he appreciated his wife’s willingness to call 911 immediately.
“I can’t speak, I can’t move. My wife is looking at me, and I thought she’d maybe wait 5-6 hours before she made that call, but she called right away,” he quipped.
When it was suggested that Karen must still love him, Larry agreed.
“I guess she does,” he said, laughing.