“It was almost like the snap of a finger, I just couldn’t feel my right arm,” says Sawyer Gaines, a 22-year-old from Weston, who also couldn’t move his leg or respond to his mother when she found him lying down. 

“My mom is actually stroke aware – her father, my grandpa, had a stroke when he was 70…because of that she asked me to smile which is that universal test and one side went up, one side went down.”

Gaines had an ischemic stroke, caused by a blood clot, and was treated at Norwalk Hospital.  To prevent brain damage, Dr. Joshua Marcus performed a mechanical thrombectomy – a relatively new procedure – offered by only a few medical centers in the state, including Danbury and Norwalk Hospitals. 

“We access an artery in the groin and use a series of catheters to go up with x-ray guidance to go in the brain to physically move the blood clot causing blockage in the brain,” explains Marcus.

Stroke can be caused by obesity, hypertension, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or smoking.  Doctors say, think “FAST” when reacting to signs.  Look for facial and arm weakness or impaired speech, then seek treatment.

“I didn’t understand the severity of it – I was 22 – I didn’t know a 22 year old even had strokes which is the whole thing here,” Gaines, whose stroke was likely caused by a hole in his heart, worked hard in rehab and is almost 100% recovered. 

He says two people saved his life: Dr. Marcus and his mom.

“The gratitude is unreal, I would say,” he says.  “The way I had to put it to myself so often in the hospital is that one thing went really wrong to get me here but so many other things went right to save my life.”

According to Marcus, there’s been a dramatic increase in stroke recovery in recent years.

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