John Kruse was driving his car last May when he sneezed and hit a tree.
"When he arrived, he was paralyzed on one side and was showing signs of an acute stroke," neurologist Dr. Charles Weinstein said.
"He said, 'You're having a stroke,' and I said, 'No, I ain't. I'm too young,'" Kruse said.
Kruse was saved by a tiny device called the merci receiver. Doctors thread the corkscrewlike device through a catheter in the leg and into the brain. The wire grabs on to the clot that is causing the stroke and removes it.
Removing the clot restores blood flow and prevents further damage. The device also buys doctors and patients more time, instead of the three-hour window to get the best medical treatment for stroke.
"We're allowed to intervene up to eight hours using the device," Weinstein said.
If approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the device could save more lives. Kruse is glad it was there when he needed it.
"It could have been real bad," Kruse said.
Clinical trials on the stroke device are going on across the country, including UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill.
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