A year after surviving a life-threatening stroke, Oceanside police officer Angela Guerra has returned to work, is paddle boarding again and recently won a gold medal in cross-country skiing at the World Police and Fire Games.
Guerra said the swift treatment she received from a multidisciplinary team at the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla and the crucial therapy she underwent at the outpatient physical rehabilitation program at Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas helped save her life.
“I never in a million years thought that I would have a stroke,” said Guerra, 42. “After almost dying, I dealt with the fight to recover, something many other people who have this stroke don’t get to do because they don’t survive. It’s made me grateful every day for waking up, walking, talking and breathing.”
Guerra suffered a hemorrhagic stroke one morning in April 2016 while climbing the stairs that lead from the beach where she surfs. Only 30 percent of people who have a hemorrhagic stroke survive it. Her stroke was caused by a previously undetected aneurysm on her brain stem, which ruptured and leaked blood throughout the back of her brain, causing a sudden paralyzing headache.
“I remember standing there, holding my head and not being able to move because of the pain. It was so bad I felt like I was going to be sick,” Guerra recalled.
Fortunately, she remained conscious and told a friend what was happening. He made the pivotal decision to call 911.
Guerra was quickly transported to Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas condition and stabilized her before transferring her to Scripps Memorial Hospital La Jolla, home to one of the country’s first nationally certified Comprehensive Stroke Centers.
Within hours, interventional neuroradiologist Giuseppe Ammirati, M.D. , stopped the bleeding in Guerra’s brain with endovascular aneurysm coiling, a procedure that uses a catheter to place a small platinum coil into the aneurysm. The coil acts like grout to fill a hole, triggering blood clotting and stopping bleeding, Dr. Ammirati 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, he said. “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.
Guerra spent almost a month in the hospital and several more months receiving physical therapy. In November, angiogram images of the arteries and blood vessels in her brain showed that she was well enough to return to the police force, where she has worked for nine years.
A month later, Guerra competed in several races at the World Police and Fire Games in Mammoth, Calif., taking home the gold in cross-country skiing.
“I feel great. I’m thankful to be back at work, full-duty. I’m very lucky and fortunate to have received the great care that I did at Scripps, and I am continuing to push myself to train and increase my strength and endurance even more,” Guerra said.
Watch the 10News report: Oceanside Police Officer Survives Rare Stroke