- Dr. Shaiba Ansari-Ali’s four-year-old cough led to a torn artery in his neck.
- Paramedics and Ansari-Ali’s family thought she was unconscious during her stroke, but she was aware of everything.
- 85% of people who have a vertebral artery dissection die before they get to the hospital.
- Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.
After four years of continuous coughing, Dr. Shaiba Ansari-Ali, a rheumatologist at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, said she had a stroke.
Ansari-Ali said TODAY that in July 2016, the room began to turn in all directions. “It’s been like the worst roller coaster ever,” the doctor said. She then said to her husband, “The room is spinning. I’m very dizzy.”
After going to the bathroom and throwing himself, Ansari-Ali lay motionless on the ground. Her husband thought she was unconscious, but she was awake and aware of everything that was happening – a condition called closed syndrome.
She suspected she had a stroke, but said she was not afraid, and she also had a sense of humor throughout the ordeal.
After receiving a blood thinner in the emergency room, Ansari-Ali said she could move back.
Dissection of the vertebral artery is caused by trauma to the neck
Ansari-Ali’s vertebral artery, an artery in his neck, was under a lot of stress from his chronic cough. “That area is still uncovered,” Ansari-Ali told Today.
After years of repeated success, Ansari-Ali’s vertebral artery tore.
The tear altered the blood flow in her brain, eventually causing a stroke. “About 85% of people who have this type of stroke die before they get to the hospital,” Ansari-Ali said.
Ansari-Ali is optimistic about his patients because of their own recovery
During the two months following her stroke, Ansari-Ali underwent rehabilitation at the hospital, following her home. His cough that led to his stroke is now under control, and he will have to take blood thinners for the rest of his life.
Nearly five years later, Ansari-Ali said she has some persistent effects from the blow. “When I get tired, my speech gets rough, I start to limp a little and I choke on more food because I can’t swallow it very well.”
But she remained optimistic for her patients, as she said the optimism of her doctors was the key to her recovery.