On October 22, John J. Guarriello woke up around 3 a.m. with a slight headache. “I never get headaches, I never have to take aspirin, it was strange,” he said. Guarriello made himself a cup of tea to drink and went back to sleep until 6. “I got up, did my Tai Chi, made breakfast, got my oil changed, all normal things.”
The 73-year-old then made his way to Costco Wholesale around 11 to pick up a prescription. He got two aisles from the pharmacy when he suddenly felt physically overwhelmed. “I was perspiring profusely and my eyes were going 150,000 miles east and west, it was wild,” he said. Costco personnel noticed something was wrong and called 9-1-1. “Then I became extremely nauseous and threw up.”
When the EMTs arrived, they hooked Guarriello up to an IV drip, but it did not placate his nausea. “They told me they thought it was a stroke, but I didn’t have any of the usual symptoms like numbness, paralysis or tingling,” he said. “The stroke was a total shock. I’ve been walking for 60 years and doing Tai Chi for 11 years, so I never thought something like this could happen, I’ve always been healthy.”
When he arrived at Penrose Hospital, Guarriello underwent CAT and MRI scans, an EKG test, and finally, Scott Shay, MD and director of interventional neuroradiology at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, performed an angiogram – an imaging test that allows physicians to see inside the body’s blood vessels. The angiogram revealed Guarriello’s main artery was working sufficiently, with 80-percent blood flow, but a small artery next to it was bent and restricting blood flow to his brain. “They told me it was an atypical stroke, a genetic anomaly,” Guarriello said. In November, Dr. Shay straightened out the bent artery by inserting a stent via the femoral artery in the groin. Gaurriello had another angiogram on April 29, which showed his stent is working; he has had almost no deficits from his stroke.
“I’ve met a lot of doctors over the years, and Dr. Shay was one of the best,” he said. “He explained everything very clearly and was very direct and caring. The whole process at Penrose was smooth.” Penrose-St. Francis Health Services provides 24/7 advanced stroke treatment and was named a certified Advanced Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. Penrose-St. Francis is part of Centura Health, the region’s leading healthcare network.
Gaurriello continues to walk in clubs and with friends at both the Chapel Hills and Citadel Malls five days a week and practices Tai Chi three days a week. “I know I’ve got to stay active and healthy, especially now,” he said.