Stroke physical therapist finds himself in need after health scare

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Rudy Pijnnaken is a physical therapist who has worked with stroke patients for years.

He even wrote a book about it.

"I said I'll work until I die, as long as I don't have a stroke myself, because I see how paralyzed they are," he said.

Unfortunately, that's exactly what happened in August.

"I was at a patient's house doing an evaluation and I realized I couldn't type properly. I thought this is weird. I get in my car, and while I'm driving I'm going into the median."

Rudy's symptoms went on for more than a day before he was forced to go to the emergency room. That's where he met Dr. Sunil Sheth, who is a neurologist at Memorial Hermann Memorial City and UTHealth.

"When I met him, he had significant disability, significant weakness. His vision was gone. He wasn't able to speak clearly," said Dr. Sheth.

The doctor discovered a tear in the blood vessel to Rudy's brain and a blood clot which was starving Rudy's brain of oxygen. He treated Rudy using a relatively new procedure in stroke care called a thrombectomy in order to remove the life-threatening clot.

"Using x-ray detectors, we navigate our catheters all the way from the leg up into the brain, deploy the devices and pull out the blood clot," he said.

Dr. Sheth says the primary importance is seeking medical assistance as soon as you experience stroke symptoms.

"Weakness of the face, slurring your words, inability to produce words or understand what people are saying, loss of vision -- these are all signs of a stroke," he said.

Rudy now has a gym set up in his backyard to improve his strength, and he's happy to be celebrating the holiday season with family.

"I can walk, I can talk, and I'm not sitting in a wheelchair, and I'm very thankful, very grateful," he added.

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