(Photo: Supplied)

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“Every day I wake up is a good day, that’s what I always say.” This is the mantra of Roseanna Bowles, a 76-year-old Unity Health Toronto patient who is thriving again after having seven strokes.

In 2020, Bowles was taken to St. Michael’s Hospital after experiencing recurring strokes. She received medical treatment and through investigation, physicians determined it was her chronic scoliosis that was causing them.

Bowles’ scoliosis was causing abnormal curving of her vertebrae and some bony protrusions, said Dr. Atif Zafar, director of Unity Health Toronto’s Stroke Program. As a result, certain neck movements would cause her bones to press down on her vertebral artery, temporarily cutting off blood flow to her brain.

She was put on a blood thinner initially, and in August 2022, Dr. Vitor Mendes Pereira, neurosurgeon and the Schroeder Chair in Advanced Neurovascular Interventions, put in a stent to protect the artery from getting damaged or impinged by the bones. The stent placement allowed for an extra layer of protection, shielding the artery from damage or tearing.

Her care encompassed several programs at St. Michael’s Hospital — including the stroke program, stroke clinic and interventional neuroradiology program — and is proof of the value of collaboration, says Zafar.

“We are fortunate to have a large group of stroke specialists, cardiologists, interventional neuroradiologists, neurosurgeons and spine surgeons who work together to solve complex patient cases,” he said.

“Treatment for these types of strokes can range from surgical bypass, external surgical decompression, reconstructive endovascular procedure, endovascular plugs, vessel sacrifice, to advanced stenting that can be performed by our skillful endovascular, vascular, spine and neurosurgeons.”

Bowles’ care at St. Michael’s was followed up with a few weeks of rehab at Providence Healthcare.

This past October, she was given a clean bill of health by Zafar. She celebrated the good news by dancing at a Hallowe’en party at the local Legion. She says it was the first time in three years that she’d hit the dance floor.

“My friends all cheered for me,” she said. “They said I didn’t miss a step.”

Bowles continues to live a busy, independent life, with weekly card and dart games with friends, and plans for a family vacation to the Caribbean in January 2024. She credits her good health to the excellent care she received at Unity Health Toronto.

“The care I received was wonderful. I had very positive experiences. All the physicians and nurses, they’re just wonderful,” she said.  

By: Marlene Leung

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