Quick Responses and Treatment Save Man who had Stroke While on a Flight

KNOXVILLE, Tenn., Oct. 28, 2014 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- One of Frank Munro's fondest memories happened in Knoxville, TN. As a member of the track team at The University of South Carolina In 1979, Munro recorded his personal best in the one-mile run. Clocking a 4:05 at the annual Tom Black Classic at the University of Tennessee, Munro flirted with the magical 4-minute mile.

But Munro's most recent trip to Knoxville, one that took him just across the river from the university to The University of Tennessee Medical Center, is likely now considered as his greatest accomplishment. On World Stroke Day October 29, he is especially thankful that he survived a potentially life threatening stroke and is now recovering from it. The clot that formed in Munro's basilar artery, choking off the oxygen-rich supply of blood to his brain, occurred while he was aboard a US Airways flight from Little Rock, Ark. to Charlotte, N.C.

It was what many people commonly refer to as 'the bad kind' of stroke. Rapid treatment is crucial.

"A basilar artery stroke is considered to be one of the worst types of stroke," explained Jennifer Henry, Stroke Center Director at The University of Tennessee Medical Center. "It is a life threatening condition that can have devastating outcomes for those who survive it, including head-to-toe paralysis. But what's amazing is that so many people came together; the flight crew, fellow passengers, EMTs, the stroke team at Blount Memorial Hospital where Mr. Munro was first taken and our stroke team at UT Medical Center, and all recognized the severity of the situation and quickly made the right decisions about his needs. I truly believe that's why Mr. Munro's story is one of success."

While on the airplane, Munro, a Rhode Island businessman who travels frequently, suddenly felt nauseous, began sweating profusely, and vomited. A flight attendant immediately called for assistance from medically trained passengers. A nurse practitioner on board quickly determined that Munro was having a stroke.

"I'm told they were at full cruising altitude, 36,000-feet in the air at the time," explained Munro's wife, Brenda Munro, who rushed to Tennessee after receiving the call about her husband on that night in late August. "But because of the quick thinking and actions of the flight crew and pilots, the plane touched down at McGhee-Tyson airport in Knoxville within six minutes."

In rapid succession following the quick landing, emergency medical technicians boarded the plane and helped Munro to the ambulance. The stroke team at Blount Memorial Hospital, a certified Primary Stroke Center, stabilized Munro, determined that his type of stroke required more extensive care, and sent him to the certified Comprehensive Stroke Center at UT Medical Center to treat the clot forming in the critical artery near the back of Munro's brain.

According to studies, one-third of basilar artery stroke patients die and another third suffer long-term debilitating paralysis, often from head-to-toe. Receiving the appropriate level of treatment, rapidly, is critical to both survival and recovery.

"Mr. Munro's case demonstrates the critical importance of the communication and collaboration between EMS, primary stroke centers and comprehensive stroke centers," explained Dr. Andrew Ferrell, the neurointerventional radiologist who treated Munro. "These cases are very complex and require input from the entire multidisciplinary team to ensure optimal outcomes. Every step along the way, beginning with the bystanders who recognized the symptoms and were not afraid to get involved, was important."

Ferrell performed a lengthy procedure to remove the clot from Munro's artery. Within hours, clots began to form again. An even more extensive procedure occurred to clear the clots and add three stents to the smaller pressure damaged vessels leading to the basilar artery. After a combined total of nearly 10 hours in the procedure rooms and three days on life support, Munro awoke.

"I remember the plane landing and that it was a hard landing," said Munro. "I'm very thankful that the pilots got us on the ground so quickly. It just was not my time to go."

Munro didn't think it was his time to have a stroke, either. Still an active runner, he'd just completed a half-marathon race, 13.1 miles, the previous weekend and had just been to his primary care physician for his annual physical with no significant concerns reported. He's sharing his story on World Stroke Day in an effort to help others.

"This just shows that it can happen to anyone, at any time, in any place," Munro said. Good shape, bad shape, it can happen. Everyone should recognize the typical symptoms, or, in my case, understand when even atypical symptoms show that something is really wrong."

Typical stroke symptoms include sudden drooping of the face, sudden weakness or numbness of the arm or leg, and sudden trouble speaking. Other symptoms that could signal someone is having a stroke include sudden unexplained dizziness, unsteadiness, loss of balance or coordination, sudden trouble seeing from one or both eyes, and sudden severe headache.

Dr. Ferrell points out that in some cases, like Munro's, there are less common symptoms.

"In some instances, individuals experiencing a stroke caused by blockages in the arteries in the back and base of the brain can include sudden nausea and vomiting as well as sudden change in the level of consciousness," Ferrell said. "We all need to know how to recognize symptoms of stroke and to understand that we must call 9-1-1 at the first sign of a stroke."

Despite the odds, Munro shows no signs of residual damage from the stroke. His speech, thinking, movement and motor skills are all doing well as he recovers at home and continues with follow up medical treatment. Ferrell says that after physical therapy and rehabilitation, Munro will likely make a full recovery. He should even be able to run again.

"I look forward to being able to start running again," Munro said. "I won't worry so much about my time; it will just be nice knowing that I've gone through such a serious health concern and can still go for a run."

The mission of The University of Tennessee Medical Center, the region's only hospital to achieve status as a Magnet® recognized organization, is to serve through healing, education and discovery. UT Medical Center, a 581-bed, not-for-profit academic medical center, serves as a referral center for Eastern Tennessee, Southeast Kentucky and Western North Carolina. The medical center, the region's only Level I Trauma Center, is one of the largest employers in Knoxville. For more information about The University of Tennessee Medical Center, visit online at www.utmedicalcenter.org.

A photo accompanying this release is available at:

CONTACT: Jim Ragonese Public Relations Operations The University of Tennessee Medical Center (865) 305-6845 jragones@utmck.edu

Source:The University of Tennessee Medical Center