Imagine chatting with colleagues at work about staffing plans and suddenly losing your ability to speak.
“They were asking me if I was OK,” Lawrence Engel recalled of that Friday in June.
He was not.
But in this case, Engel’s colleagues were doctors and nurses at Southside Hospital in Bay Shore, where he serves as an assistant nurse manager in the cardiothoracic ICU.
Engel was exhibiting signs of a stroke.
“He was recognized to have the symptoms of a stroke very quickly and was given a medicine called TPA (tissue plasminogen activator), which is what we give patients that present symptoms of a stroke in under three hours,” said Dr. Andrew Rogove.
“It’s the clot-buster for strokes,” he noted. “Larry got that in the emergency room.”
Then it was all about testing and monitoring.
It’s not often the team at Southside or most hospitals have to drop everything to tend to one of their own.
And this story has a happy ending.
The nurse manager from Deer Park, 47 years old, never had a stroke.
After months of analysis, Engel just underwent brain surgery this Thursday, Dec. 15, during which doctors removed a lesion from inside his left temporal lobe that was causing him seizures, freezing up his ability to speak.
He and Dr. Rogove wanted to tell this story for a few reasons.
First, they’re proud. They both spoke about Southside, and how, while it’s a tertiary hospital, it still has that community hospital feel, where all the staffers know of one another. When the phone rings within Southside, the voice on the other line is usually a recognizable one.
That all helped comfort Engel during a time of terror.
“But I really didn’t know Dr. Rogove,” he said. “When our paths crossed we would give the colloquial hello; it wasn’t until this all came down that we recognized each other, and he started talking to me, saying we’re going to get through this.”
Engel was in a panic, for good reason. He and his wife, also a nurse on Long Island, have seen their share of stroke victims come through their hospitals.
They’ve seen the results, both good and bad.
And for Dr. Rogove especially — the medical director of stroke at Southside who also sees patients in his Bay Shore office — he wants to inform or remind the Greater Bay Shore community that whenever anyone shows any signs of a stroke, time is of the essence.
Engel was administered the clot-busting drug in a timely fashion, because he was surrounded by doctors and nurses and just a short walk away from an emergency room and ICU.
Anyone else exhibiting signs of a stroke, needs to move, Dr. Rogove emphasized again and again in an interview with greaterbayshore.com this week.
“People neglect their symptoms,” he said. “Very few people would neglect crushing chest pain. But if someone has numbness or mild weakness, or difficulty with speech or a facial droop, vision loss or double vision, these could all be signs of a stroke.”
“And while there are other conditions that mimic stroke, these should be taken seriously right then and there, not a day later,” he continued. “Within 3 to 4 1/2 hours we can actually do interventions to reverse the problem.
“Where if someone comes to us after that time, we’re kind of stuck doing rehabilitation.”
Engel said he lost an uncle and a close friend’s father to a stroke.
“That’s all running through your mind,” he recalled.
If he did live, he saw the possibility of a long, hard life flash before his eyes.
“I’m thinking, I’m 46 years old and God knows what can happen moving forward,” he said this Tuesday, two days before his brain surgery. “It was terrifying, almost like a locked-in syndrome, where you can hear everything but you just can’t speak.”
“But throughout the whole ordeal, the critical care team was by my side every minute,” he added. “They were reassuring me, my colleagues. Yet two minutes ago everything was fine.”
Top: Dr. Andrew Rogove and Lawrence Engel at Southside Hospital last week. (courtesy)