Be the First: How a Stroke Saved Mary’s Life

Mary Abbas (front right) pictured with her husband, Fred, and four children – (from left to right) Greg, Lori, Sandi and Fred.

She’s the first in Michigan to undergo new procedure to block aneurysm

A stroke saved Mary Abbas’ life.

At least that’s the story the 77-year-old Houghton Lake, Mich., resident says she’s sticking to, after making a full recovery and celebrating Easter with her beloved daughters in Florida.

It was just a regular morning in mid-February, when Mary noticed she was slurring her speech as she called her dogs back into the house.

“I knew I was having a stroke,” she said.

She acted quickly – calling her husband and blurting out, “stroke” and “hospital,” before dialing 9-1-1.

Within minutes, paramedics came to her home and rushed her to Grayling Hospital. A cat scan revealed no bleeding in the brain, but confirmed that Mary was having a stroke.

A subsequent MRI also revealed she had a small, unruptured aneurysm in the brain.

“The word ‘aneurysm’ scared me more than the stroke,” Mary said. Though she had not experienced any symptoms, she knew how serious the diagnosis was. Her father died of a ruptured aneurysm.

“By the grace of God, the stroke saved me,” Mary said.

Mary was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, where her family rushed to join her. She was promptly treated by Dr. Andrew Xavier and the stroke team.

In discussing treatment options for her aneurysm, Dr. Xavier told Mary she would be a good candidate for the newly approved WEB procedure, an alternative to endovascular coils and complex stenting procedures.

The minimally invasive procedure would require Dr. Xavier to place a tiny device called the WEB, or Woven EndoBridge, into the aneurysm sac. The device then takes the shape of the aneurysm, effectively blocking further blood flow that would risk a rupture. Mary would be one of the first patients at St. Joe’s – and in the state of Michigan – to undergo the procedure.

“After they explained the procedure, I was excited. I wanted to be part of that. I was a good candidate, and I had no fear. The neuro team put me totally at ease,” Mary said.

The procedure was scheduled at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, where Dr. Xavier helped launch comprehensive interventional neurology services earlier this year. He completed the procedure successfully on April 8, and Mary was discharged on April 10.

“I felt no different from the time I went into the hospital, until the time I left,” Mary said, explaining she had no pain or headache at the time of discharge.

Mary said the groundbreaking technology gave her a new lease on life, and she praised Dr. Xavier and his teams at St. Joe’s Oakland and Ann Arbor for the remarkable care they provided over the past couple of months.

Mary is back to her routine in Houghton Lake, enjoying mornings with her dogs and cherishing time with her family.

“I’m 77. Normally at this age, you’re looking toward the last stages of the wonderful life you lived. I was given an extension of that wonderful life,” Mary said.

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