Last fall, Howard Washington, a sophomore from Buffalo and member of the S.U. Men’s Basketball team, suffered a stroke on campus. Well on the road to recovery, Howie’s proof that stroke can strike at any age — and due to different causes.
Photo credit: Dennis Nett, syracuse.com
Wednesday, Sept. 26, was like any other day. Howie grabbed lunch before heading to a chemistry lecture.
When he left his class, he felt dizzy. Weak and losing feeling in his legs, he couldn’t feel the right side of his body. He said it felt like everything shut down.
Receiving help from two students from his class, Howie made it to a bench and called SU Men’s Basketball team trainer, Brad Pike.
“I don’t remember exactly what I said or what it sounded like. Brad said it sounded like mumbling, but what he got out of it was ‘Help’ and ‘Quad.’ When Public Safety Officer Andrew Clary made it to Howie, his speech was still slurred, he couldn’t feel the right side of his body, and his leg was limp. Brad and Officer Clary got him in the car and headed directly to Crouse Health’s Pomeroy Emergency Services.
The Comprehensive Stroke Center at Crouse Hospital
Once Howard arrived at Crouse, he was immediately seen by the Comprehensive Stroke Center team. He was met by Neurologist and Stroke Program Medical Director Tarakad Ramachandran, MD (right). It was determined he had two clots in his artery on the left side, leading to his brain.
Crouse Neurosurgeon David Padalino, MD, performed a procedure to remove the clots.
Howie’s Heart Condition
With the clots removed, the focus turned to determining what had caused the healthy athlete to suffer a stroke. Suspecting a heart ailment known as a PFO, or patent foramen ovale, Dr. Padalino called in Crouse cardiologist Fafa Xexemeku, MD, (left) to diagnose Howie’s condition.
Extensive cardiac testing confirmed that the cause was a PFO, a hole in the heart wall that exists in everyone at birth, but usually closes shortly after.
Chief of Cardiology Joseph Battaglia, MD, and Dr. Xexemeku (known to staff and patients as Dr. Fafa) and performed a procedure to close the PFO.
Just 33 days after his stroke, Howie was in the Orange lineup for Syracuse’s season-opener against Eastern Washington.
“It still sounds crazy to say I had a stroke,” Howie said. “I feel completely fine now. I’m back playing basketball again and I’m going to play next season. I can’t wait.”
Dr. Battaglia, an avid S.U. sports fan, reflects on the teamwork at Crouse that is keeping the young guard on the court. “The collaboration between David Padalino and the cardiologists was really great,’’ Dr. Battaglia said. “We’re all cheering for Howie.”