EDMOND, Okla. (KFOR) – “It’s a miracle, it’s honestly nothing short of a miracle,” said Dr. Bahar Malakouti, a neurohospitalist at Mercy.
It was a miracle sparked by sheer panic for Cris Gomes and her family.
One February morning, Gomes woke up at 5 a.m. after hearing her 4-year-old son, Lucas.
Since she was awake, she decided to feed her 3-month-old baby boy, Oliver.
“I fell asleep, or if I passed out, I don’t know, but suddenly I came to and I was just very sleepy, I could not keep my eyes open,” said Gomes.
Cris, dazed and confused, managed to get Oliver back in his crib, and herself back to bed.
“I don’t remember how that happened, I don’t know if I was dragging my legs or something,” she said.
Her husband woke up next to her, feeling that something was very wrong.
“I woke up to her making noises, like she was trying to move,” said her spouse, Franciney Gomes. “I turned the lights on and she was clearly having a stroke, the right side was paralyzed, she couldn’t say anything.”
Within life-saving minutes, he called 911.
“I have snap shots from the day, so I remember him saying, I’m going to call 911, and then I remember the EMSA guy standing over my head,” said Cris.
The ambulance rushed Cris to Mercy, which so happens to be a comprehensive stroke center.
“I have a young woman coming in, she can’t move her right side, she can’t speak, onset was within an hour ago, she’s a brand-new mom, and it’s like immediately you just go into super high alert,” said Dr. Malakouti.
Malakouti was one of the first people in the ER to see Cris.
“What can we treat? Let’s treat it. What can we prevent? How can we prepare the family for if things go worst case scenario, which was a real possibility with her,” she said.
CT images showed the amount of tissue in Cris’ brain that was experiencing the stroke.
“There are neurons that are dying, millions a second, when you’ve got flow compromised to the brain,” said interventional radiologist Dr. Bryan Van Zandt.
“For her to be so devastated neurologically – it was terrifying, absolutely terrifying,” added Dr. Malakouti.
Cris had no function in the right side of her body, couldn’t speak, and couldn’t understand a word.
“In a 30-something-year-old woman who has a toddler and a three-month-old baby and a loving doting husband, clearly a very full life, it was so difficult for us,” said Dr. Malakouti.
Dr. Malakouti administered a clot busting medication and teamed up with Dr. Van Zandt who stepped in to try and remove Cris’ clot.
“Her situation was extremely severe,” said Van Zandt.
He managed to get one clot out but found a second.
This one was out of reach.
Cris was taken to the ICU, where doctors monitored her progress every 15 minutes.
“That day it was like I couldn’t leave Cris’ side, it was like I had to go with her,” said Dr. Malakouti.
They worried that if Cris survived, she wouldn’t be able to talk, speak, listen, or even hold her precious baby again.
“We do our part and then we kind of left the rest of it up to God and said here we’ve done our part, we’ve done everything we possibly can for her let’s see how she does,” said Dr. Van Zandt.
The next day, the clot was gone.
“I didn’t think that was going to happen, I honestly didn’t,” said Dr. Malakouti.
“It is by far one of the best cases I’ve ever done in my career,” added Dr. Van Zandt.
To everyone’s surprise, Cris turned around miraculously.
Just a few weeks after her stroke, Cris was able to make it home to her babies, to the life she almost left behind.
“When she came home from the hospital, I was just super happy, I was thrilled,” said Franciney.
Meanwhile, Cris still had therapies, and recovery to battle through.
She’s moved mountains in a few weeks, post stroke.
Cris partially credits her job with how quickly she’s made progress.
As a speech pathologist, she spent her days helping stroke victims like herself.
“I’m hopeful that I’ll have some opportunities to serve that population, in a way that probably nobody else can … have this experience to really know what it’s like,” she said.
She’s been leaning on her faith, while sharing and reliving her story.
“I know what my purpose is here and taking care of my family is going to be the number one priority of my entire life,” she said.
Crediting her son’s wake up call with saving her life.
“The fact that they did those things that morning, saved my life, because we wouldn’t have known,” she said.
Also crediting doctor’s Malakouti and Van Zandt.
“It’s very clear that they didn’t know anything about me, but they were going to do everything they could to save me,” said Cris.
Cris is on track to gain all her speech back, and she’s praying for full feeling in her hand.
As her recovery journey continues, every day is a gift.
“If someone had told me before, you’re going to have a massive stroke, and you’re probably going to die, maybe, before I would’ve thought I cannot handle that … but I did … and I’m stronger for it,” she said.
Cris Gomes is forever changed, and forever a medical miracle.
The Gomes Family and Mercy want to remind everyone of signs and symptoms to look for when it comes to strokes.
An easy way to remember is to use the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T.
B = Balance – Does the person complain of sudden onset unsteadiness, dizziness or difficulty walking?
E = Eyes – Does the person complain of narrowing vision, blurred vision, seeing dark or bright spots?
F = Face – Ask the person to smile & show their teeth. Is the smile even or lop-sided?
A = Arms – Ask the person to raise both arms and hold them straight out. Does one arm drift downward?
S = Speech – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Do words sound slurred or garbled?
T = Time – Knowing the time when the person was last seen “normal” helps determine the course of treatment and improve outcomes.