New tech could be ‘game-changing’ for stroke patients
October 27, 2021
SURREY, BC – In February 2020, Brendan Havisto got this “hard-to-describe” feeling in his chest. Havisto, a Surrey, BC resident, and mechanic with Coast Mountain Bus Company, was finishing up some paperwork for an inspection when he “got dizzy in my chest.”
“Like you would be dizzy in your head, but it was in my chest,” he said. “I was focused on that, I didn’t even realize that my right arm and right leg, my whole right side was limp.”
Despite being a first-aid attendant as well, Havisto said it “didn’t even click” that he was having a stroke because his brain was so foggy. He was only 35 at the time.
While his symptoms dissipated within five minutes, Havisto ended up in the hospital. It wasn’t a full blockage and there was an assumption there would be no damage. But a few days later, he experienced what he described as “after-strokes” – when your body normalizes to the damage … “so it’s a less severe version of what happened before,” said Havisto.
An MRI found damage, but fortunately for him “the deficits weren’t much.”
Results from the MRI also showed that Havisto had experienced a stroke prior to this one. “I’ve had two strokes, none of which had an explanation or a cause. The first one I didn’t even feel,” he said.
From there, Havisto went through a battery of tests. He was given two options: he could do another two-week halter monitor, or he could be put on a wait list for a permanent, embedded monitor. The wait list would be about six to eight months.
Then Havisto found out he could be part of a six-month pilot project at Surrey Memorial Hospital, following the Surrey Hospital’s Foundation investing $25,000 toward Western Canada’s first injectable loop cardiac monitor.
The project focuses on high-risk cryptogenic stroke (strokes of unknown origin) patients, using the recorders and monitoring them continuously and virtually with a specialist team. The electrocardiographic (ECG) heart-monitoring device that records heart rhythm continuously is non-invasively inserted via injection just under the skin of their chest area.
“I was a good fit because I was too young to have had two strokes, especially one where we don’t even know when it was,” said Havisto.
He points to his three children as part of his reason to join the project.
“I don’t know what a third one would look like and if we don’t find a cause, I might have a third one. And having a six- to eight-month wait to get one of these embedded in a normal process, that six-to-eight months could mean a third.”
That timing could be “game-changing,” he said. For so many people, especially those that have had more than one stroke, those months could be catastrophic.
The whole process took about 45 minutes, and Havisto said he was back to “light duty” work the following day. He has a home kit, with a device plugged in on his nightstand, and from midnight to 5 a.m. it will update.
However, this isn’t new technology.
Dr. Tarun Sharma, lead cardiologist at Surrey Memorial Hospital, used it before as part of his training in the United States. But he said it hasn’t been commonly used in Canada. “It was exciting to be able to do that and bring that for the patients in Canada.”
The purpose of the pilot project, is to “use it in a select population of patients where the neurologist suspects there’s a stroke that they think may be coming from the heart and we haven’t been able to find the reason,” said Dr. Sharma.
The hope, he said, is that they can extend the pilot project to improve workflow and access to the device. In the meantime, October 29th is World Stroke Day.
Strokes, or a sudden loss of brain function caused by a brain blood vessel blockage or rupture, is the third leading cause of death in Canada, according to a release from the hospital’s foundation.
Pictured above: Brendan Havisto with his family
Source: Surrey Now-Leader