Doctors at UW Hospital save two patients with one surgery
MADISON, Wis. — It started out as just another day. In a matter of hours, there was a very real possibility that it would be Jenny King’s last day.
The 28-year-old Janesville woman was 16 weeks pregnant. On the morning of June 17, her husband Mike King left for work in Madison. Jenny started having difficulty with her motor skills and knew something was wrong. She called her husband for help.
“I get a call about half way there and she started slurring her words and I’m like, ‘This is not good,'” Mike King said.
He called his parents, who live near their Janesville home, and they were able to quickly get to Jenny. When Mike arrived back home Jenny was being put into an ambulance and taken to Mercy Hospital of Janesville.
When doctors realized Jenny was showing symptoms of a stroke, they called UW Health for assistance. Dr. Luke Bradbury remembers getting that call.
“A young woman who is 16 weeks pregnant who may be having a stroke and that immediately is a little bit scarier than a lot of the other calls that we get,” Bradbury said.
While strokes have occurred in pregnant women before there is not a lot of research available for doctors to rely upon for guidance in treatment. Bradbury made the decision to administer tPA, a clot-busting drug, to Jenny and have her transported immediately to UW Hospital in Madison.
“When you have someone in Jennifer’s situation, where you have mother and baby, it makes it a little bit harder to make these decisions. We don’t have big studies to tell us this is exactly what you should do in cases where you have a young pregnant woman,” Bradbury said.
When Jenny arrived at UW Hospital, her condition had worsened.
“She was barely awake, almost comatose. She was not moving any of her arms or legs,” Bradbury said.
Dr. David Niemann, a neurosurgeon at UW Hospital, performed endovascular brain surgery to remove the clot and restore blood flow to Jenny’s brain. The surgery he would perform would be an effort to save, not one life, but two.
“This is the difference between life and death. Without this surgery she and her baby would not have made it,” Niemann said.
The surgery took approximately two hours. When Jenny woke up from the anesthesia she was able to move her arms and legs and communicate. Doctors were confident the surgery had been successful in saving Jenny, but Jenny was left to wonder if the stroke had done any damage to her baby.
“It was a very, very scary moment, not knowing if your child is going to make it or if she’s going to be OK or not,” Jenny said.
Because Jenny was now considered a high-risk pregnancy, she delivered the baby at Meriter Hospital in Madison. Their daughter, Hailey, was born on Nov. 29.
“About the second they pulled her out she started crying and I knew it was going to be OK then,” Jenny said.
They are now looking forward to spending Christmas as a family.
“It is going to be a very special Christmas. She is our Christmas present,” Mike said.
Her doctors at UW Hospital say getting Jenny medical care quickly helped in minimizing the damage from the stroke. They say it is critical for individuals who believe they are having a stroke to get medical help immediately. The longer you wait the more damage the stroke will do.