SUMMIT, NJ (Union County) – Every year, nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke, an acute condition that can prove devastating for many, and fatal for one in six victims.
Thanks to the unparalleled expertise at Atlantic Health System’s Overlook Medical Center and Atlantic Neuroscience Institute in Summit, NJ, the story of young stroke victim Joe Slota is one of hope, success, and triumph over a condition that could have debilitated him.
Slota was four days shy of his 27th birthday in June 2013 when “I experienced a cramping above my eyes like I’d never felt before,” shared the Morristown resident. After being rushed to the emergency room at Morristown Medical Center, “I woke up disoriented, with half of my vision lost in both eyes and no movement or sensation on my left side.”
Slota was transferred to Overlook Medical Center for further specialized testing where he was diagnosed with a ruptured arteriovenous malformation, or AVM. This congenital condition marked by abnormal arteries and veins inside the brain creates a dangerous high-pressure gradient that can result in or cause a hemorrhagic stroke. “The process of high-flow arteries connecting to low-flow veins can form weakened vessels and aneurysms that can rupture, bleed into the brain, and result in catastrophe,” shared Kyle Chapple, M.D., an endovascular neurosurgeon at Overlook Medical Center’s Atlantic Neuroscience Institute and partner at Altair Health.
Trained in treating the delicate nuances of AVMs, Dr. Chapple and his team worked quickly to stabilize Slota, embolize (seal off) the AVM to stop the arterial flow, and perform a craniotomy (removing part of the skull) to decompress his brain and prevent more bleeding. Slota would ultimately undergo a total of six complicated and carefully planned surgeries over that year.
“To treat Joe, we performed complex neurosurgical procedures that involved many different disciplines and an in-depth understanding of the timing of each,” shared Dr. Chapple. “Our specialized stroke and endovascular teams in the cerebral-angio suite, OR, and Neuro ICU do their jobs incredibly well and enable us to achieve such positive outcomes.”
Initially warned that he might not walk, work, drive, or play sports again, Slota, now 34 and an IT Project Manager for a professional services firm, has defied the odds and is proud and humbled to tell his story. Strengthened by the love of his family and friends throughout his ordeal and the belief that “anything is possible if you want it badly enough,” Slota recently co-authored a book on his experience, “Can’t? Just Did!” with his sister Erica, and hopes his story can inspire others to work hard and remain hopeful.
“Joe had a positive outlook and he and his family were a great team,” Dr. Chapple said. “Our medical professionals are also a great team. Our highly trained experts at Overlook Medical Center are doing high-powered neurosurgery – procedures which the community may have perceived were only possible by specialists in New York City, Philadelphia, or Boston – right here in New Jersey.”
“I didn’t have time to choose my doctors that day but was so lucky to get them,” confirmed Slota. “Dr. Chapple and his team were incredibly honest, respectful, and professional, elicited such confidence and trust, and truly saved my life. For neurological surgery,” Slota said, “I wouldn’t go anywhere else in the world but Overlook.”