Healthy You - Every Day

Sugarloaf Baseball Coach Thankful to Many for Surviving a Stroke

When a sunny July day for Chris McBride turned into a nightmare, fast-acting Lehigh Valley Health Network clinicians came to his rescue.

Three hours. On a warm day last summer, that’s all it took for Chris McBride to go from being a Little League baseball coach to a stroke survivor.

“Obviously I feel very blessed,” says the 41-year-old high school teacher from Sugarloaf. “I am so grateful to so many people.”

It happened on July 20, 2023, the 10th wedding anniversary for McBride and his wife, Sherry. Practice was being held at Valley West Little League for the 7- and 8-year-old All-Stars, which included McBride’s son Patrick. The kids were warming up while McBride prepared Gatorade bottles for them.

“I actually couldn’t remember how to screw on the tops to the bottles,” McBride says. “Then I was walking over to the dugout dropping bottles, and I guess I was stumbling. One of the parents asked if I was all right.”

911 activated

When he reached the dugout, he was trying to say something to one of the other coaches and found he couldn’t speak. Then he lost all movement on the right side of his body.

“Thankfully somebody had called 911 because the ambulance got there really quickly,” McBride says. “I was off to the Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Hazleton emergency room probably within 10 to 15 minutes of this happening.”

Stroke team ready

Meanwhile, clinicians at LVH–Hazleton were already preparing the clot-dissolving medication tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) for McBride’s arrival. When a CT (computed tomography) scan identified a large clot in a left side artery to the brain, tPA was administered. As this was happening, clinicians were in touch with the Comprehensive Stroke Center at LVH–Cedar Crest in Salisbury Township via telehealth technology.

“If the patient doesn’t improve with the tPA, we prepare for a mechanical thrombectomy (extraction) using a catheter,” says Hussam Yacoub, DO, vascular neurologist with Lehigh Valley Fleming Neuroscience Institute. “As the patient was being transferred here via medical helicopter, our large vessel team had been notified and everybody was familiar with the case by the time he arrived.”

Removing blood clot

The thrombectomy, a minimally invasive procedure, involved running the catheter up through a blood vessel in McBride’s groin to extract the clot. The procedure usually takes 20 minutes to an hour.

“From the moment I was given the tPA until the clot was removed, the time was under three hours,” McBride says. “Everything went so well. Thankfully, I didn’t need much physical therapy. But that wasn’t the end of the story.”

Diagnosing his stroke’s cause

McBride went through a battery of tests as clinicians attempted to discover the cause of his stroke. An echocardiogram uncovered a PFO (patent foramen ovale), meaning a hole in the heart.

“PFOs are very common, up to 25 percent of people have them,” says Chirdeep Patel, MD, interventional cardiologist with Lehigh Valley Heart and Vascular Institute. “Most people never have an issue with them. But under the right circumstances, a stroke can result from a PFO.”

No other abnormality surfaced in McBride’s tests. Five days after his stroke procedure, McBride underwent an outpatient procedure with Dr. Patel to insert a plug over the PFO. Eventually, scar tissue covers the plug to eliminate the PFO entirely.

“After everything that happened, I only missed a week of teaching,” McBride says. “I can’t begin to express my thanks to everyone at LVHN, to everyone who helped me at the baseball field. I’ve been one lucky guy.”

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