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Certifiably Prepared: Penumbra Clot-Removal Device Saves 24-Year Old

Pain Management Although his memory of the actual event is foggy, Victor Escamilla is very clear on one thing: San Joaquin Community Hospital (SJCH), Dr. Donald Cornforth and a Penumbra device saved his life.
Three weeks ago, Escamilla, a 24-year-old resident of Bakersfield, walked into the Emergency Department (ED) at SJCH with signs and symptoms of an acute stroke.

“All I remember is that when I went to the hospital, they asked me if I could handle a pen with each of my hands,” Escamilla said. “I couldn’t use my left side at all and my right hand was not at full strength.”
Within minutes of his diagnosis in the ED, Escamilla was rushed to the Cath Lab and into the skillful care of Dr. Donald Cornforth. According to Cornforth, Escamilla had suffered a stroke due to a blood clot in a major brain artery behind his left eye. By this point, Escamailla was unable to speak or move. With every passing second, Escamilla was one moment closer to life-long paralysis and most likely, death.

But thanks to Penumbra—a mechanical clot-removal catheter—Escamilla was moving and trying to speak within 10 minutes. Although complicated in execution, as Dr. Cornforth explains, the procedure is quite straight forward.

“The device is made up of three main parts,” Cornforth said. “The base is a sheath which infuses blood thinner through the catheter as it navigates the artery. At the end of the catheter is a triangular-shaped head that extends and breaks up the clot.”

Cornforth elaborates by noting that as the head breaks the clot, the catheter acts as a vacuum, sucking the clotted blood back into the tube and using the blood thinner to completely disintegrate it.
All this happened within 30 minutes of Escamilla’s arrival to SJCH—an arrival that saved his life.

The SJCH Difference
Launched in January 2008, the Penumbra System is a package of tools used by neuro- interventional specialists to remove occlusions from the large vessels of the brain that are causing an acute ischemic stroke. As the only hospital between Los Angeles and San Francisco to have both a Penumbra System and a Nationally Certified Stroke Center, SJCH is more than prepared to give stroke victims advanced stroke care that is both thorough and timely.

Just ask Victor Escamilla.

“I’m so grateful to San Joaquin Community Hospital for having the Penumbra,” Escamilla said. “Without it, my wife would be a single mother and 13-month old daughter wouldn’t have a daddy.”

Now that’s making a difference.