Editor's Note: Nicholas Roth, communications specialist at of SSM St. Clare Health Center, 1015 Bowles Ave., Fenton, reports on a celebration the hospital had Sunday with doctors, caregivers, family and friends of Isabel Wimmer-Brown, a 20-year-old patient who spent a year recovering and rehabilitating from a life-threatening stroke with treatment at St. Clare and other local SSM facilities.
It all started July 2, 2011, when Isabel, then 19, had a headache, became sick and then unresponsive. She was immediately taken to the SSM St. Mary’s Health Center Emergency Department, Roth reports. She underwent a CT scan of her brain that revealed a clotted venous drainage system. As blood continued to enter her brain with no pathway to exit, the vessels ruptured, causing a hemorrhage to the brain. She quickly was transferred to the SSM Neurosciences Institute hub at St. Clare Health Center where she was met by neurosurgeons Drs. Armond Levy and Eric Sincoff.
“Isabel had a stroke, called venous sinus thrombosis, which is a rare form of stroke that results from a blood clot of the dural venous sinuses, which drain blood from the brain,” explained Dr. Levy in Roth's report. “When she arrived, she was in a very grave situation.”
Dr. Levy treated Isabel in St. Clare’s biplane angiography suite, breaking up the life-threatening clots in the veins of her brain. However, the stroke had done its damage, leaving her brain severely injured. She was taken to the Intensive Care Unit, but was not expected to make it through the night.
Isabel’s family and friends gathered at St. Clare to say their goodbyes, but Isabel surprised everyone by continuing to live. The staff in the ICU kept Isabel heavily sedated, allowing her brain to rest and other procedures to occur, such as a tracheotomy and a drain in her brain to keep pressure down, which helped in her recovery process.
“The staff in the ICU was amazing, and we were so blessed to have them,” said Mary Wimmer-Brown, Isabel’s mother. “They were very thorough and kind throughout the entire process, and we could talk with them about anything.”
Isabel was in the ICU at St. Clare from July 2 through August 1. She was then transferred to Select Specialty Hospital at SSM St. Joseph Health Center for 17 days of long-term acute care. While at Select, Isabel strengthened her breathing, allowing her to be taken off a ventilator, and underwent therapy sessions.
Isabel’s final inpatient transition was to SSM Rehabilitation Hospital at St. Mary’s Health Center for five weeks of rehabilitation. It was during these weeks that Isabel began taking major strides back to her normal life. She ate “real” food on her own, began walking with assistance, relearned how to talk and read and returned to her passion – drawing.
“With Isabel being so young and perceiving her fight, I suspected she might be able to relearn a lot,” said Dr. Levy. “But she definitely overcame the odds, and exceeded my highest hopes.”
The SSM Health Care Mission is, “Through our exceptional health care services, we reveal the healing presence of God.” Through the joint efforts of multiple SSM facilities providing exceptional care, today Isabel is a strong, vibrant young woman who spends her time drawing, volunteering at Twice Blessed, a resale shop in St. Louis, helping at art camps and participating in literary discussion groups.
“The Lord has truly blessed us to still have Isabel with us today,” said Mary. “We will be forever grateful to Dr. Levy and everyone who took part in her care to make everything possible.”