Joey’s Story

Joey Bulfin, Chief Operating Officer, St. Mary’s Medical Center.

I really felt I was doing all the right things to lead a healthy lifestyle. During my usual morning workout, I stepped up onto the treadmill and immediately felt something strange. I became nauseous, my vision blurred and I felt a very heavy sensation on the left side of my body. My arm and my leg felt as if I had slept on them. I exercised regularly, didn’t have any issues with my heart, never smoked and wasn’t overweight. I was a healthy woman and had none of the typical risk factors, so my stroke came as a complete surprise to me.

As an employee at St. Mary’s Medical Center for over three decades, I have known for a long time that our Comprehensive Stroke Center is one of the finest. I began working at the hospital as an RN in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in 1980 and was promoted to Chief Nursing Officer in 2005. Through hard work and determination, six years later I advanced to Chief Operating Officer and was responsible for the daily operations at St. Mary’s. I knew we had the best team of neurologists in this area, led by Dr. Ali Malek, the Medical Director of the Interventional Neurology Program and the Stroke Program at St. Mary’s. I just never thought I would be one of his patients and that the day would come when Dr. Malek would have to save my life. 

From my nursing background, stepping off of the treadmill I instantly recognized the symptoms I was having as signs of a stroke. I had my husband drive me to St. Mary’s, knowing I would be in good hands at the hospital’s Comprehensive Stroke Center. Dr. Malek wasted no time in performing tests that confirmed the diagnosis. Within an hour of the incident, the team administered tissue plasminogen activator, (tPA), a medication that assists with the breakdown of blood clots. I began feeling like my normal self almost immediately. I was then transferred to the neurointerventional suite, where Dr. Malek discovered the source of my stroke. Apparently, the inner lining of an artery in my neck had somehow become damaged.

I spent two days in the St. Mary’s Intensive Care Unit, receiving outstanding care from all of the doctors and nurses while going through extensive follow-up testing. Amazingly, after I was discharged, I returned to the hospital two days later, not as a patient, but as an employee. My life as I know it could be very different if it wasn’t for the quick response of the stroke team led by Dr. Ali Malek at St. Mary’s. I am so grateful to be able to continue working, making sure St. Mary’s runs as efficiently and effectively as possible to better serve patients like myself.

**This testimonial reflects results achieved by this patient. As each case must be independently evaluated and managed, outcomes may vary.**