A Second Opinion at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist Saves Man from Potential Massive Stroke

After a series of mini-strokes and months of ineffective treatment at another facility, Martin Clark finally received the care he needed at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.Martin Clark, 64, enjoys an active, healthy lifestyle. Dec. 30, 2015, was like many other days for him: The now-retired circuit court judge and current bestselling author went to the gym to lift weights and run on the treadmill. When he got home, he felt nauseous and then collapsed to the floor.

His wife was supposed to be at a yoga class, but came home early because of bad weather. As soon as she found him, she sought emergency medical care.

“It’s a miracle my wife came home early,” says Martin. “I couldn’t have used the phone to call 911.” 

Martin was taken to his local community hospital, where he had difficulty speaking and moving his left arm and leg.  

“Thanks to Dr. Nick Kipreos, I received prompt and thorough emergency room care and was stabilized,” says Martin. “I was then transported a larger health care center.”

Weeks of recurrent symptoms 

Upon his release from the hospital, Martin’s aftercare treatment was ineffective.  Following several months  of recurrent symptoms and feeling like his local provider didn’t take him seriously, Martin reached out to Dr. Stacey Wolfe, a neurosurgeon at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist, for another opinion. 

“When Martin arrived, we identified that he had, in fact, had a stroke from a tear in his carotid artery, called a dissection, which formed into an aneurysm with blood clots escaping into the brain,” says Dr. Wolfe. “This was a challenging and dangerous situation as it was in a difficult part of the vessel to reach, he was at risk for a major disabling stroke, and we were dealing with both a stroke and an aneurysm to repair.”

Martin’s repair procedure

“We rapidly brought him into the hospital and I was able to use a special type of stent to seal the aneurysm and open the artery back up,” says Wolfe. “We worked as a full team to ensure he had the medication and follow-up care to ensure the stents stayed open. Our nationally recognized ultrasonography team was key in monitoring the stent.” 

Martin is grateful to Dr. Wolfe for listening to him and taking his symptoms seriously. 

“Dr. Wolfe is a world-class neurosurgeon,” says Martin. “She’s also as nice and accessible as anyone you could ever find.”

Martin’s recovery

After a series of mini-strokes and months of ineffective treatment at another facility, Martin Clark finally received the care he needed at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.While Martin didn’t require physical therapy or experience any significant brain injuries, it took him nearly a year to feel back to normal and return to his full-time career as a judge and part-time role as an author. 

Martin’s encouragement to other stroke survivors: “Recovery from a stroke isn’t linear. That can discourage people and it discouraged me. Recovery has its peaks and valleys. I went from having a stroke to living a full life, having my day job again and writing some of the best books I’ve ever written.” 

Though he’s fully recovered physically, he says the mental burden of surviving a stroke has been challenging to navigate. Thankfully, he’s had Wolfe and her team with him every step of the way. 

“I’ll never overlook any sign or symptom again,” he says. “Dr. Wolfe is compassionate and understood what I went through. I can call her with any questions I have and she’ll call me back.” 

“Judge Clark is now almost 10 years out from his stroke and was able to return to his position as a judge and a bestselling author because we were able to truly listen to his symptoms, make the diagnosis, identify the stroke early, develop a creative treatment plan for a complex situation and reconstruct his carotid artery,” says Wolfe. 

Warning signs of a stroke

Martin had no risk factors before his stroke. He exercised regularly, managed stress well, drank alcohol in moderation, maintained a healthy weight, had no family history of stroke and never smoked. 

This is why it’s crucial to watch for the warning signs of a stroke and remember the BE FAST acronym:

  • Balance: Sudden issues with coordination or balance.
  • Eyes: Vision loss in one or both eyes, blurriness, or double vision.
  • Face: Facial numbness or drooping on one side. 
  • Arms: Weakness or numbness in one arm or one side of the body. 
  • Speech: Unable to speak, difficult to understand or slurring words. 
  • Time: If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to call 911 right away. 

Learn more about stroke care at Atrium Health Wake Forest Baptist.