CAITLYN Liersch’s family say the 15-year-old is a walking, talking miracle after she survived a heart attack and a stroke on the same day.
The Moama teenager left hospital just three weeks later, some reduced sensitivity in her left hand the only legacy of her against-the-odds recovery.
She is the 1000th person — and the youngest — to be treated so far through an $8.5 million statewide program to get expert neurological care to stroke victims within an hour.
Had she suffered her stroke before the technology arrived, she would have been left severely disabled.
Caitlyn collapsed in September, while getting ready for school.
Within minutes of her arrival at Echuca Hospital, Royal Melbourne Hospital neurologist Bruce Campbell assessed her via video link.
He reviewed her brain scans and approved a thrombolysis injection to help dissolve the clot in her brain.
There is a critical four-hour window during which the clot-busting treatment needs to be given.
Dr Campbell also arranged her urgent transfer to Melbourne for endovascular clot retrieval — a new procedure to manually remove the clot — which proved unnecessary after the drug dissolved the blockage.
Caitlyn was treated under the Victorian Stroke Telemedicine program, which is based at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and now covers all 16 of the state’s regional hospitals, putting 94 per cent of Victorians within an hour of expert stroke care.
The co-leader of the program, Professor Christopher Bladin, said they were now planning to extend the telemedicine service interstate.
This would help end the “postcode lottery” of healthcare for the 55,000 Australians a year who suffer stroke.
“Time is brain, with stroke,” Prof Bladin said. “For every minute faster you get stroke care, you save one day of life free of disability.”
Caitlyn’s mother, Kathy Liersch, said: “She’s our little miracle. We’re so grateful this telemedicine service was there.”
Caitlyn is now back at school fulltime but is still being treated for the cardiac virus that caused her heart attack, which led to the stroke.
“I’ve got a little bit of rehabilitation to go on my hands — I couldn’t tell if I was holding something fluffy or something rough — but I’m nearly there,” she said. “I just feel very, very lucky.”
- Photograph and story (by Brigid O'Connell) courtesy of The Herald Sun