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Timothy Carpenter was airlifted from the North Country to Upstate, where specialists removed a blood clot from his brain. (photo by Susan Kahn)
Timothy Carpenter was airlifted from the North Country to Upstate, where specialists removed a blood clot from his brain. (photo by Susan Kahn)

'Quite a good outcome'

Recognizing, responding quickly helped save a man’s life



It was Aug. 8, and Timothy Carpenter had just returned home from taking his wife, Michelle Angel, to Watertown for her birthday lunch.

He had some copies to make. He was running a page through the copy machine when he started feeling dizzy. He mumbled something.

“What did you say?” his wife called from across the room.

She turned just in time to see him collapse. She called 911.

Prompt recognition, followed by a swift medical response, helped save Carpenter’s life.

Carpenter recalls that his right side was not working. He’d knocked over the chair when he fell. Now he struggled to get up, and he struggled to speak.

Timothy Beutler, MDTimothy Beutler, MD

Soon, two old friends from the Fishers Landing Fire Department were at Carpenter’s side. “Mark Baltz was sitting there saying, ‘Will you lay still?’ His nephew, Andy Baltz, walked in, took one look at me, and walked back out to call the helicopter.”

Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Services arrived to transport Carpenter from his trailer home to the nearby Can-Am Speedway in LaFargeville, where the LifeNet helicopter could land safely.

“It didn’t seem like it took hardly any time at all,” Carpenter says of the flight to Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse. He spent the entire trip trying to communicate that his wallet was in his back pocket. He remembers glancing out the window to see Interstate 81 and the Great Lakes Cheese plant in Adams from above. He remembers landing, hearing the blades of the chopper wind down and his being wheeled into the hospital.

“I remember them taking my shirt off at the hospital. I remember them saying, ‘We’re going to give you something that’s going to make you feel better,’ and I was out.”

Carpenter’s stroke happened on his wife’s birthday. Fourteen years earlier, he survived a heart attack on her birthday.

“I’m kind of an old bird,” says Carpenter, 58. He worked in a lumber yard when he had his heart attack. At first, he shrugged off the pain as a pulled muscle and continued working. That night he went go-kart racing. The next day, he couldn’t raise his arm above his head, but he worked his entire shift. He returned the next day to load trucks for delivery. Finally, feeling awful, he said he had to go home.

Amar Swarnkar, MDAmar Swarnkar, MD

His wife had an ambulance-crew friend stop by to assess him. The man took Carpenter’s blood pressure and turned white. He told Carpenter he was going to the hospital, and he was going immediately. “What scared me,” Carpenter says, years later, “is that he flat refused to tell me what my blood pressure was.”

Since then, Carpenter has taken an aspirin every day. He said it’s unclear whether his stroke is related to his heart attack.

He awoke Aug. 9 under the care of Timothy Beutler, MD, a neurosurgeon who specializes in critical care at Upstate. A blood clot had totally blocked one of the vessels in his brain.

While Carpenter was out, members of the stroke team gave him a powerful thrombolytic to help dissolve clots, and Amar Swarnkar, MD, a professor of radiology, neurology and neurosurgery, used tools to locate and retrieve the clot in a procedure called a thrombectomy.

“Everything in stroke care is time-sensitive,” Beutler explains. “Mr. Carpenter had quite a good outcome. That’s because of a quick recognition of his stroke symptoms, and his quick arrival to Upstate. He was able to get the thrombolytics and to get into the angio suite for the thrombectomy.” The angio, or angiography, suite is where such procedures, involving blood vessels, can be performed.

Beutler says based on the location and size of the clot, if Carpenter had not arrived so quickly, he likely would have suffered a stroke that caused potentially life-threatening swelling. He would have been hospitalized for weeks. He may have required emergency surgery. He likely would have been left with severe deficits and been discharged to a nursing home rather than to his home.

Because he got prompt care, when Carpenter awoke, he had full movement on his right side, and he could speak. He felt weak on the right side, but he says even that improved by the next day. When he went home from the hospital, his only remaining symptom was a mild facial droop that is barely noticeable.

This article appears in the spring 2023 issue of Upstate Health magazine.