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Kingwood Medical Center Stroke Success

Kingwood Medical Center February 20, 2017

Photo: Michelle Abellar with sons Jonraf and Joel

Kingwood, Texas, Feb. 20, 2017 — Kingwood Medical Center (KMC) continues to provide leading medicine to the communities of the Lake Houston Area.

Michelle Abellar, age 35, was starting her day as she always does; getting up to take her children to school. Today was different though when she noticed that she was having trouble getting out of bed. Asking her youngest son, Joel for help, she still did not have the strength to pull herself to a sitting position. Her oldest son, Jonrae then came to the rescue, only to find that he too was unable to assist. Michelle’s father, Eduardo was called and he arrived at the house, and called 9-1-1. The ambulance arrived and transported Mrs. Abellar to HCA’s West Houston Medical Center where IV-tPA (a clot dissolving medication) was initiated. Mrs. Abellar was then brought to Kingwood Medical Center, the area’s only Comprehensive Stroke Center, where neuro endovascular radiologist, Luis Vaca, M.D. performed a procedure to remove the clot that was causing the occlusion. By Friday afternoon, Mrs. Abellar was sitting up, speaking and walking. “I can’t thank my children enough for not listening to me and my father Eduardo for everything he does to help me and for never leaving my side,” she said. “I thought that I was just tired, as we had recently returned from burying my mother in the Philippines.” “I want to thank Dr. Vaca and the team at Kingwood Medical Center, because without them, I might be paralyzed or worse.”

Photo: Luis Vaca, MD

Stroke is a major cause of death and disability, and patient outcomes depend on how quickly the blood flow can be restored to the damaged area of the brain. Treatment options for stroke include thrombolytic medications that aim to dissolve the clot, and interventional endovascular procedures (similar to a cardiac catheterization) to remove it. Successful stroke care requires early recognition, transporting the patient to a designated comprehensive stroke center, and early activation of a stroke team at the hospital.

The Emergent Large Vessel Occlusion (ELVO) is a type of stroke where a major cerebral artery is blocked. ELVO strokes have the highest rate of mortality and poor outcomes. Thrombolytics alone usually do not work for large vessel occlusions, and recent studies have shown that combined thrombolytics and endovascular procedure are the most effective treatment.

There are two tiers of stroke centers that offer different treatment options. Primary stroke centers are equipped to administer thrombolytics, and comprehensive stroke centers offer the additional endovascular procedures. Stroke scales are now being used to identify strokes and assess their severity, and to direct patients with suspected ELVOs to comprehensive centers. Kingwood Medical Center is the only comprehensive stroke center in the Lake Houston area, and received the 2016 Stroke Excellence Award from the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council. Because of this designation, Kingwood Medical Center is seeing many more cases.

Mr. John Shaw, age 49, was sitting in the passenger pick up line at Bush Intercontinental Airport waiting for his wife Betty and their daughter Courtney to arrive from a trip to California. Betty, a nurse, noticed that something strange was going on, “Typically John would make his presence known,” Betty said, “but this time – he was sitting in the car tapping at his cellphone.” The couple got in the car and Betty immediately noticed that John was slurring his words. Concerned, Betty got out of the car and went over to the driver’s side – where she saw that the left side of his face was drooping, and his left arm was lying limp on his lap. Mr. Shaw has no recollection of this event. Betty was well aware of what was happening, and sent daughter Courtney inside to ask airport authorities to contact EMS. Mr. Shaw was then brought by ambulance to Kingwood Medical Center, the area’s only Comprehensive Stroke Center.

Mr. and Mrs. Shaw credit the hospital and Dr. Luis Vaca for saving his life, “I have no words to thank everyone at Kingwood Medical Center for such great care.” As Melinda Stephenson, Kingwood Medical Center’s CEO stated, “We are so happy that we have the resources to provide this advanced care to our community.”

Dr. Luis Vaca noted, “In medicine, we are often treating the symptoms after injury. Endovascular interventions, like mechanical thrombectomy, afford us the opportunity to minimize the devastating damage that large vessel occlusion strokes have on quality of life for patients and their families. The noted recovery of patients like Mr. Shaw makes me proud to be a part of the advanced medicine we are providing here at Kingwood Medical Center.”


About Kingwood Medical Center

22999 Highway 59 North, Kingwood, TX  77339

Kingwood Medical Center is a 373 bed acute care facility that has provided quality care to the Lake Houston Area for 25 years. It is home to the area’s only comprehensive cardiac care and neuroscience programs. The hospital is recognized by DNV as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, and ADA as an Accredited Diabetes Center.

Our Women & Children’s Center provides Level II and III neonatal intensive care units, high risk obstetrics, a breast diagnostic center, a designated pediatric unit, and the area’s only pediatric emergency department.  The hospital also provides surgical services, inpatient rehabilitation, laboratory, diagnostic imaging, and emergency services – including a 24 Hour Emergency Care Center in Fall Creek. The Wound Care Center and The GI Center complete the services offered at Kingwood Medical Center: Quality Care, Close to Home.

Kingwood Medical Center complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, disability, race, color, ancestry, citizenship, religion, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, medical condition, marital status, veteran status, payment source or ability, or any other basis prohibited by federal, state, or local law.


About HCA Gulf Coast Division

HCA Gulf Coast Division is a comprehensive network of hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, emergency centers, and diagnostic imaging facilities. It offers a complete continuum of specialized health programs and services that meet the needs of Greater Houston and South Texas’ residents and businesses.  HCA affiliated facilities in the Gulf Coast Division include: 13 hospitals, 8 ambulatory centers, 6 off-campus emergency centers, and a regional transfer center that provides one-phone-call access and support for patient transfers into and out of the HCA Gulf Coast Division Affiliated Hospitals, as well as access to ground and air transportation within a 150-mile radius. For more information, visit our website at

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