New Media Producer: Brad Maglinger
Ten days after suffering a stroke on the driving range, Gary Formanek was back in full swing.
Gary's quick recovery was thanks to a whispery-thin medical device. When uncoiled, it resembles a corkscrew.
"What we did for Gary was pull out a blood clot that was plugging up an artery in his brain," says Dr. Gary Nesbit.
Doctors run a catheter from the groin to the brain, then unfurl the corkscrew, snag the clot and pull it out. The beauty is it's quick, much quicker than other clot-busting techniques.
"The earlier we can reestablish blood flow to the brain, the less brain damage there'd be," Dr. Nesbit says.
Now, just a few months after his stroke, Gary admits his range of motion isn't what it was. But just after his stroke, he couldn't feel, much less move, his left side. The 64-year-old golfer believes that if doctors hadn't tried this promising technique, he wouldn't be golfing today.
"Yeah, I'd been, well we wouldn't had been talking. I'd been sitting in a wheelchair," says Gary.
The severity of Gary's stroke could well have disabled him for life. Or worse, it might have killed him. The corkscrew is now being tried on stroke patients suffering medium to large blood clots. Doctors believe devices like this may be the wave of the future in stroke treatment.
"All of these mechanical devices I think can get clots out quicker, easier, without thinning the blood," says neurologist Dr. Wayne Clark.
The Merci Retriever, as the corkscrew device is formally known, has only been used on about 50 patients nationwide. But if it proves safe and effective, doctors believe it could be used to treat as many as one quarter of all stroke victims.