Swift, expert stroke treatment results in full recovery
Dan Vitullo, a member of UC Irvine Medical Center facilities management team, suffered a stroke but recovered because of quick treatment.
Some organizations have a face everyone knows. Dan Vitullo is one of those people at UC Irvine Medical Center.
member of the hospital’s facilities management team for more than 20
years, Vitullo always has a smile and kind word for staff and visitors
alike. On Sept. 22, 2009-- his 20th wedding anniversary-- Dan needed the
kind of assistance he so willingly offers others.
"It was just
after breakfast, and I felt the worst headache of my life," Vitullo
says. "There was a burning sensation up the back of my skull."
He collapsed near the employee entrance of the UC Irvine Douglas Hospital cafeteria.
Martinez, a neurosciences unit nurse, had emerged from the nearby staff
elevator and noticed his coworker’s distress. Recognizing the symptoms
of stroke, he knew Vitullo needed to get to the emergency room
“Alejandro took the lead and said we didn’t have
time to call a code blue or wait for a 911 response,” Vitullo says.
Within minutes, he was in the UC Irvine emergency department where
doctors examined him. Vitullo’s right side was paralyzed, the sign of a
After a CT scan confirmed there was a clot in his
head, a doctor administered tPA, a drug that can bust clots if given
within hours of the onset of symptoms. Though the drug is often
effective, many hospitals don’t administer it or use it quickly enough
to make a difference.
Several hours later, scans revealed no lasting damage in Vitullo’s brain, which he calls the best news possible.
“According to the doctors, my brain was in pristine condition,” he says.
treatment was not over, however. After treating the stroke, the UC
Irvine medical team performed tests to determine the cause of Vitullo’s
“They had found a hole in my heart,” he explains. Known
as a patent foramen ovale, the hole develops while a baby is in the womb
to allow blood to pass between the upper chambers of the heart. For
most people, it closes shortly after birth. If it doesn’t, the hole
could allow a clot to pass from a vein through the heart and lodge in a
Six months later, UC Irvine cardiologist Dr.
Morton J. Kern fixed this problem by threading a long, thin wire called a
catheter through arteries into Vitullo’s heart and inserted a device to
seal the hole.