Massive stroke strikes Astoria man, wife's fast action saves him from paralysis

Ron Paapke and his wife Jane Leino sit on a hospital bed at OHSU in Portland. While at home in Astoria, Leino recognized the signs of stroke in her husband and acted fast: she called 911. (Photo from video provided by OHSU)

Ron Paapke of Astoria plopped onto his couch one afternoon in late September and immediately felt strange.

Seconds later he was face down on the floor.

“I fell down on the ground and tried to get up for about a minute or two, and then I realized I couldn’t operate anything on the left side of my body, so I hollered for my wife,” Paapke says.

Jane Leino was in the kitchen and already had an inkling that something was not right. Paapke, usually boisterous and talkative, was too quiet. She found him face down on the floor and tried to help him up.

“It was like lifting dead weight. He had no strength, and I could not lift him,” Leino says.

She rolled him onto his back and asked him to smile. There was no smile on his left side, and he couldn’t lift his arm. She told him she was going to call 911. He told her not to and just wanted her to help him to the couch.

“I said, ‘Ron, you’re having a stroke,’” she told him.

She was right. By the time paramedics got Paapke to Columbia Memorial Hospital, he was about 20 minutes into the “golden hour” – the window of time where stroke victims can still hope to recover if their clots are treated.

While doctors in Astoria worked on him, a stroke alert went out to Portland’s OHSU’s Dr. Stewart Weber.

In minutes, Weber was on the telemedicine robot screen in Paapke’s room making his assessment.

“The patient was sitting there, and it was obvious he was having a fairly massive stroke,” Weber says. “It was clear on the imaging and from his symptoms, there was blockage in one of the large, large arteries that are feeding half the brain.”

Doctors put Paapke on a Life Flight helicopter to OHSU, where Weber and Dr. Hormozd Bozorgchami took over.

An angiogram showed a massive clot blocking Paapke’s carotid artery from his neck to his brain. It had to come out.

“In his case, once we crossed the neck, we started to suck from the catheter and were pulling a massive clot – probably the largest clot I’ve ever taken out of a patient’s head,” Bozorgchami says.

An average clot is eight millimeters long. This one was 120 millimeters – almost five inches long.

The doctors were in awe as they pulled it out.

“Immediately when we did that, the patient said that his headache went away, and his speech was already getting better,” says Bozorgchami. “He was like, ‘Hey, my arm and leg are feeling much better now.’”

Both doctors praised Paapke’s wife for recognizing his symptoms as a stroke. She was impressed by the care he received.

“It’s all possible to come back from a stroke,” Leino says. “If he hadn’t got that attention in that hour, he could have been severely paralyzed right today.”

Paapke says he was in denial about what was happening. He wife was not.

“I’m really glad I listened to my wife, or my wife didn’t listen to me,” he says. “If anybody can learn anything from this, I’d recommend listen(ing) to your wife, because men, we’re just hardheaded and we think we know everything.”

Paapke was back to full health in about an hour.

The faster someone gets treated, the better the outcome.

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