It was a normal February day for Anne Hanley, NP, 64, at Pediatric Health Care Associates in Lynn. Around lunchtime, however, things took a turn for the worse. Hanley was talking with a co-worker when she felt two very sharp points of pain in the left side of her head. Shortly after her co-worker left, Hanley sat back in her chair. She couldn’t speak.

Hanley toppled out of her chair and couldn’t move her right side. Her co-worker returned and immediately called 911, noting the right side of Hanley’s face was drooping.

“I remember first being at North Shore Medical Center in the Emergency Room and miraculously both of my kids had gotten there very quickly,” Hanley said at the Acute Stroke Breakfast Gala last month. “My younger son kept turning his back to me and to the side and he was sniffling. He’s 31. I really tried to comfort him with my left hand and my eyes, but that was difficult because I couldn’t talk to him.”

After several tests and evaluations, a neurologist at North Shore Medical Center (NSMC) concluded that Hanley was having a stroke. Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), a blood-clot-busting medicine, was administered by 2:30 pm, however part of the clot remained. That’s when NSMC called the Massachusetts General Hospital Stroke Service. 

An innovative program developed between NSMC and Mass General allows specialists to expedite the transfer of patients with severe stroke, like Hanley’s, directly to the Mass General operating room. There, the remaining blood clot can be removed from the brain by experts from the acute stroke interventional team.

About 90 minutes later, MedFlight arrived to bring Hanley to Mass General, where she arrived at 4:36 pm. “I was literally whisked away,” she said.

After a brief discussion between the Stroke Service and Neuroendovascular Service, the team determined Hanley needed a thrombectomy to remove the blood clot that was still blocking a major artery in her brain.

Hanley’s procedure was finished by 5:30 pm. Four days later – after more evaluations, physical therapy and occupational therapy – she was discharged from the hospital with a recovery plan in hand. A total of 24 specialists were involved in Hanley’s care during her stay at Mass General.

“This case beautifully captures everything that can go well,” said W. Taylor Kimberly, MD, PhD, associate director of the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit, who was the attending physician when Hanley arrived at Mass General. “I feel privileged to play a part of a larger team that together really made something special happen.”

The Mass General Acute Stroke Service celebrated the success of Hanley’s case at the fifth annual Acute Stroke Breakfast Gala on May 26, which honors the Mass General Stroke Service and its commitment to excellence. 

Additionally, the unit highlighted its goal of becoming a Joint Commission-certified Comprehensive Stroke Center – the first of its kind in Massachusetts.

“For years we have provided comprehensive care to our complex stroke patients,” said Natalia Rost, MD, director of Acute Stroke Services at Mass General. “Throughout the last year, we have come together as a robust multidisciplinary community of professionals dedicated to delivering the highest standards of care by forming the Mass General Comprehensive Stroke Care Program.”

Lee H. Schwamm, MD, executive vice chair of Neurology, emphasized the importance of celebrating his team’s hard work and reflected on the department’s commitment to delivering the best care possible.

“These celebrations are very important,” he said. “We don’t take enough time to reflect on not just the incredible commitment of the people who work at this organization, but what we can accomplish. Every single patient whose life we save, and whose functional ability we preserve, is why we come to work every day.”

Hanley returned to work just one month after her stroke and – although she experienced some memory and speech issues – she said she’s doing much better.

“I want to thank every one of you for the wonderful care,” Hanley said. “From the EMTs, to the ER staff at NSMC, to the interventional doctors, to MedFlight, to all the specialists and techs who did my evaluations and tests, and special thanks to the nurses and doctors for all that you did and all that you do. It was truly amazing how I could have a stroke and get such speedy treatment, and be just fine.”