Stroke team innovates new procedure to save college student

By: Emily Fink .

Stroke victim, Kayla Dierkhising
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With spring semester finals approaching at Bemidji State University, Kayla Dierkhising was stressing like a typical college student would: studying more and sleeping less.

She easily blamed school work for a growing headache. But on exam day, a roommate found Dierkhising unconscious on the floor and called 911.

“I was lying in bed and I vaguely remember getting on the ground to pull a blanket on, but I definitely don’t remember much of what was happening,” Dierkhising said.

She was suffering from a rare massive stroke and needed emergency care right away. Sanford AirMed transported Dierkhising to Sanford Medical Center Fargo, where she was prepped for emergency surgery in the care of neurosurgeon Alexander Drofa, M.D.

“There is no standard treatment for the stroke Kayla had,” he said.

The Sanford Health stroke team swiftly came together to perform an innovative new lifesaving procedure. They threaded a catheter from Dierkhising’s groin to her brain to remove blood clots one by one. She survived and the procedure was a success.

Everyone was blown away by Dierkhising’s recovery, even the neurology physicians.

“I got stopped in the hallway once because I was up and walking around,” she said. “The doctor said it was crazy for him to see because normally people on that floor aren’t up and walking around by themselves.”

After only six days, Dierkhising went home and has been cleared of complications ever since.

Dierkhising said she’s thankful for the immediate care she received at Sanford Fargo, Dr. Drofa and his team who had the skill and cutting-edge expertise to save her life.

“I’m definitely grateful he tried something, because he could have said, ‘Oh, no. It’s not going to work,'” she said. “I love that team there. They answered all my questions and explained what happened and what will happen in the future.”

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