A Sheffield mum, who suffered a potentially catastrophic stroke when she was 39 weeks pregnant, had her life and that of her unborn child saved by a procedure to mechanically remove a blood clot from her brain within three hours of collapsing at home.
Jana Smith, aged 29, is only the third known case in the UK of a pregnant woman undergoing a mechanical thrombectomy – a procedure to physically remove the clot from the brain using a catheter inserted in the groin and fed up through the blood vessels. She made a full recovery following the procedure and had a healthy baby delivered by caesarean section three days later, with both mum and baby able to return home the same week.
Jana, of Stradbrook, said: “It was very scary and emotionally difficult for me and my husband because we’ve been waiting for this baby for some time. I had a miscarriage last year so little Jonny is our much wanted rainbow baby.
“The fact they saved me so quickly and I made a full recovery means the world to us.”
Sheffield Teaching Hospitals has offered the mechanical thrombectomy service for almost two years, but it is the first time it has been performed on a pregnant woman at the trust.
Stroke consultant Dr Aaizza Naqvi said: “This was a challenging case and without the timely decision making that enabled the procedure to be undertaken quickly, it would have been very likely that Jana would have been left severely disabled and unable to look after her baby.
“It could have been a dire outcome. There is only a four to six hour time window for the treatment to be effective – when somebody suffers a stroke like this, time is brain. A person loses nearly two million brain cells in a minute, therefore it is crucial to call 999.
“Only 25 per cent of strokes occur in young people, and although the risk of stroke is higher in pregnant women, it is still uncommon. Stroke is even more devastating when it occurs in a young woman trying to start a family.”
Jana was in the bathroom at home when she suddenly slid to the floor and was unable to get up.
She said: “I tried to grab onto different things, like the edge of the bath to try and pull myself up, but I had no strength.
“Luckily I was in middle of an online chat conversation with my husband Tom who got worried when I stopped responding. I
managed to pick up my phone and message him to ask for help.
“He only works ten minutes away so he came quickly to my rescue.”
Tom phoned an ambulance and Jana was assessed as being suitable for the ‘straight to scan’ service, where the patient is taken directly to radiology at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital for a quick initial assessment by the stroke team and a CT scan.
Jana had lost movement in the left side of her body, could not move her left arm or leg and her speech was very slurred.
“I was very scared for the baby and didn’t care much about myself but kept hands on my belly trying to monitor baby’s movements. It still makes me very emotional.”
Dr Nagaraja added: “Within hours of the procedure, Jana had recovered significantly and regained most of her function.”
Jonny was delivered by caesarean section on Jana’s due date.
Jana said: “I had my baby without any complications. We named him Jonathan and we’re both doing really well now. I want to share my story and hopefully spread awareness about strokes.”