Oceanside police officer survives rare stroke

Posted at 7:26 PM, May 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-25 22:27:35-04

An Oceanside police officer is back on the job one year after a rare stroke nearly took her life.

Angela Guerra says it happened after a surf session in Encinitas. She was on the beach when a sudden severe headache hit her.

"I thought I turned wrong because I had neck pain," said Guerra. "I went up the stairs and paused at each platform area."

Guerra wanted to go home and sleep it off, asking a friend to pull her car up to the beach. But another friend says in his gut, he knew something was seriously wrong.

"Her body was just fighting and fighting and fighting," said Al Murphy.

Eventually, Guerra ended up at the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, where doctors are prepared to handle complex cases.

Dr. Giuseppe Ammirati, a Scripps interventional neuroradiologist, says Guerra beat the odds. She suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, which only 30 percent of people survive. Doctors believe it was caused by a previously undetected aneurysm on her brain stem, which ruptured and leaked blood throughout the back of her brain.

Dr. Ammirati's team performed a minimally-invasive procedure to save Guerra's life. They used a catheter to place a small platinum coil into the aneurysm. The coil fills the hole, triggering blood clotting and stopping the bleeding.

“As a comprehensive stroke center, we have an experienced team of experts who review every case and collectively decide the approach to treatment that will offer the best results with the least risk,” he said. “Angela’s case was difficult to treat because the aneurysm was located in a sensitive area of the brain that controls movement and function. When the team looked at the radiological images, it was determined that an endovascular approach was best.”

Studies have shown that for a hemorrhagic stroke, survival rates with endovascular treatment are 20 percent higher, Dr. Ammirati said.

After several months of rehab, Guerra says she's grateful to be alive and feeling like herself again.

"Yes I am extremely grateful for every day I wake up and get to take that breath, that first breath," said Guerra. "I'm grateful for the people in my life. I definitely appreciate them, I can't describe it, I took it for granted for so long. I try not to do that anymore."

May is National Stroke Awareness Month and doctors want everyone to know the signs.

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

If you have any of these symptoms or see someone else having them, call 9-1-1 immediately! Fast treatment at the hospital can yield better outcomes.

So you think someone is having a stroke? Remember the word FAST

  • Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
  • Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

*Source: National Stroke Association