Caught in the Nick of Time

"The day after my stroke, I felt like nothing had happened,. I felt fine."- Bill McCormick
By all accounts, William “Bill” McCormick, 77, had left his adventuresome life as a thoroughbred horse racing trainer behind. For 33 years, McCormick worked as a quality assurance representative at Bechtel Power Corporation (five years) and Lockheed Martin (28 years). Following his retirement in 2013, he and his wife Anna moved to the desert to enjoy plenty of golf and sunshine. Married for 50 years, they met in Long Beach where McCormick grew up and hoped to one day play golf professionally. 

“When I got out of the service at age 24, I had hoped to play golf at the professional level. However, I discovered I had osteoarthritis and could not practice and play enough, without pain, to compete at a professional level,” says McCormick. “To my good fortune, a very good friend named E.B. Johnston — the Pie Man from Johnston’s frozen pies — who was involved in the thoroughbred horse industry, got me started working with horses. Eventually I became a horse trainer. It was a pretty exciting career for about 10 years. I went to work in the aerospace industry after that.”

More recently, in 2020, McCormick beat the odds without setting foot at the racetrack. Suffering from atrial fibrillation — an irregular and often very rapid heart rhythm that can lead to blood clots in the heart — he was admitted to Eisenhower. During a span of seven days, McCormick went into cardiac arrest three times, and each time was revived. His treatment included a pace maker and defibrillator. He was sent home to recover but returned to the hospital with congestive heart failure and a bacterial blood infection. 

“I don’t remember anything about my initial time in the hospital,” explains McCormick. “Once they discovered my bacterial blood infection, I was treated with antibiotics for three months. I lost a lot of weight during that time getting rid of the fluid build-up in my body.”

Once he’d recovered from his infection, McCormick needed bladder surgery. While recovering at home following a successful bladder surgery, Anna found him on the floor of their home one evening and called for an ambulance. 

McCormick had suffered a stroke.

“Strokes are caused when a clot stops or slows down blood flow to the brain,” says Eisenhower Board Certified Interventional Radiologist Mehran Elly, MD. “As in Mr. McCormick’s case, following a CT Angiogram and CT perfusion, we were able to see where the blood flow had stopped and what part of the brain was affected.” 

"The clot was on the right side of the brain, causing symptoms on the left side of the body. It was a race against time."-Mehran Elly, MD
“CT data is processed to produce pictures of major blood vessels.  We were able to detect exactly where the clot was located,” continues Dr. Elly. “The clot was on the right side of the brain, causing symptoms on the left side of the body.  The CT perfusion portion of the exam showed that affected part of his brain was not getting enough oxygen but was still viable and could be saved if the clot was removed promptly. It was a race against time.”  

McCormick was quickly taken to the angiography suite. Using a catheter inserted into an opening in the groin, a clot removal device was routed under fluoroscopy up to the blocked vessel in the brain. The blood clot was captured and removed, restoring blood flow. 

“Mr. McCormick’s symptoms rapidly improved,” says Dr Elly. “We were fortunate to be able to save the affected part of his brain.”

“The day after my stroke, I felt like nothing had happened,” says McCormick. “I felt just fine. I was still weak from my heart surgeries but that has gotten progressively better. I don’t feel like I have any side effects from the stroke.”

“With my pacemaker and defibrillator, I haven’t had any more atrial fibrillation issues. I can really tell the difference. I’ve been told that my heart capacity is working at about 75 percent of what it used to be and I’m much weaker, but overall, things are going pretty well.”