Tom Kloster remembers how the turning point in his life played out – and how helpless he was to do anything about it.
Another neighbor who happened to be a nurse arrived by then.
“I think he's having a stroke,” she said.
Tom arrived at St. Alexius Medical Center unable to speak or move his right side. He had suffered a left brain stroke. Doctors tried using a clot-busting drug, but it didn’t work.
Dr. Ralph Dunnigan, who is also a family friend, went to the waiting room to speak with Tom’s wife, Ruth. He told her that the drug did not work and the clot was cutting off oxygen to Tom’s brain.
Unless things changed quickly, Tom would either be declared brain dead or left with irreversible brain damage.
Then Dr. Dunnigan told Ruth about a procedure that had never been performed in North Dakota. If successful, it could make a difference in Tom’s recovery and quality of life.
The technique – known as an endovascular procedure – required using a tiny catheter with a micro corkscrew that enters through the groin then snakes into the brain, where it grabs the clot and pulls it out.
Ruth agreed. The challenge then was finding Dr. Brent Herbal, the only doctor in North Dakota trained to perform the operation.
Herbal had the day off and was about leave town for a vacation. But he answered a call and agreed to return to the emergency room to perform the procedure.
The Kloster family understood the gravity of Tom’s condition. His father, along with children, Alaina, 15, and Brandon, 11, stood in the hallway reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
He has gone twice to Washington, D.C., to give his personal testimony on behalf of the American Heart Association, focusing especially on how lucky he was lucky to receive the care he needed considering there was only one person in the state trained for that particular procedure.
Tom said two bills have been passed that will provide hospitals in all states with the technology that can provide the same sophisticated health care he received.
“Uniformity with hospitals is important,” he said. “If this had happened in a remote area while I was traveling, I don’t know that I would have survived.”
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