At the age of 33, Melissa Futrell went to the Emergency Department when a bad headache wouldn’t go away. She had started to slur her speech and wasn’t sure what was causing her symptoms. She was diagnosed with a “complex migraine” and referred to a neurologist. Melissa started medication for the migraine, but also noticed her heart felt like it was tightening every once in a while. Her confusing health situation came up in a conversation with a good friend, whose husband is a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon. Hearing what Melissa described, he thought Oklahoma Heart Institute cardiologist Dr. Wayne Leimbach should take a look.
“I didn’t feel right,” recalls Melissa.
Melissa met with Dr. Leimbach, who ordered a transesophageal echocardiogram. It revealed the symptoms Melissa had been experiencing did in fact have to do with her heart. Dr. Leimbach diagnosed Melissa with a PFO, also known as a hole in the heart. PFO is a risk factor for a transient ischemic stroke (TIA). Looking at her medical history, Dr. Leimbach realized the original problem sending Melissa to the ER was not a migraine, but a stroke.
At such a young age, Melissa is not the patient you would expect to suffer a stroke. “He said I was one of the healthiest patients he had ever had,” recalls Melissa. For patients who suffer a stroke “out of the blue,” PFO is the likely cause. Dr. Leimbach repaired the PFO, greatly reducing her risk of a recurrent stroke. “He gave me all the information I needed to know.”
For Melissa, a wife and mother of two, knowing exactly what was wrong and knowing how to fix it, gave her the peace of mind she was looking for. “It enabled me to live a normal, healthy life,” she adds. “I do not have to worry about having another stroke that would have potentially resulted in disability.”