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Boston Doctors Save Woman Who Suffered Stroke On Flight From London

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WBZ-TV's Ken McLeod Ken MacLeod
Ken MacLeod is a general assignment reporter and substitute anchor a...
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BOSTON (CBS) – A woman on a flight from London to Boston suffered a stroke over the Atlantic Ocean last week. The pilot sped up the flight to get to Boston faster.

“I couldn’t move my hand, I couldn’t move my leg, I couldn’t move anything,” Linda Keir told WBZ-TV Wednesday. Keir got a good look at her once blocked carotid artery Wednesday afternoon. “I cannot believe how lucky I am,” she said. “It’s like there was an angel with me.”

She and her husband Billy were flying from Scotland Friday to visit relatives when a sharp chest pain rendered her right arm and leg limp and she couldn’t speak. Her husband grabbed a flight attendant and a doctor just happened to be on board.

The pilot throttled up and a call ahead alerted Logan Airport, paramedics, and the stroke team at Mass. General Hospital with the clock ticking. “That’s critical because time is brain,” Dr. Lee Schwamm of MGH says. “Every minute that the brain is deprived of blood, brain cells are dieing.”

Hence a fast-track approach that shortcuts hours of traditional evaluation. Within 13 minutes of her arrival in Boston, Keir was getting the clot busting drug TPA, and within 40 minutes, she had been scanned and sent to the operating room where surgeons removed a blood clot in her brain.

“In the operating room, she was able to lift the arm again and start talking,” Dr. Schwamm says.

That’s because the speedy remedy limited what could have been far-reaching damage to only a tiny portion of Linda’s brain, the kind of outcome doctors hope to make the standard everywhere.

For now, though, Linda thanks God her flight was Boston-bound. “This was the flight,” she says. “It was meant to be.”

She is not 100 percent yet, but she’s getting close with a long list of people to thank. Boston, as it turns out, might well have been a life-saving destination. “I would say she got upgraded to first class stroke care,” Dr. Schwamm says.

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