Jan. 5, 2022, started off just like any other workday for Mike DiMeglio, an emergency medical technician (EMT) with Hackensack Meridian JFK University Medical Center. Although the 28-year-old had been diagnosed with COVID-19 13 days before, he was fully recovered and ready to start his noon-to-midnight shift.
But when DiMeglio was doing a pre-shift rig check, he noticed something odd. According to a statement, “I started seeing what I can only describe as a ‘blurb’ in my vision on the right side. At first, I didn’t think anything of it, but then I started losing peripheral vision in my right eye.”
When DiMeglio — who is also a nursing student at Middlesex College — told his supervisor he was having trouble seeing. Within a few minutes, DiMeglio began feeling weak and developed a headache behind his eyes. He called Elaine Kilijanski, a senior medic for JFK University Medical Center. “I told her to get over here. I knew what was happening, but I just couldn’t manage to say, ‘I think I’m having a stroke.’”
“I could tell that he was having trouble forming words — he was almost stuttering,” Kilijanski said in the statement. “When I got there, Mike’s speech was slightly slurred, and he was having trouble finding words and following commands, so we initiated our stroke protocols — including calling in a pre-hospital stroke code.”
DiMeglio’s friend Tyler Glagola, an EMT and a charge nurse in the Emergency Department (ED), accompanied the stroke team to meet him at the door. The neurology residents staffing the ED ordered an immediate CT scan for Mike. After reviewing the results, they ordered tenecteplase, a clot-busting medication.
“COVID-19 can cause the blood to thicken, which can increase the risk of clot formation. Our residents are so well-trained that they immediately recognized that Mike was having a stroke and administered the medication,” Siddhart Mehta, M.D., neurointerventionalist at JFK University Medical Center, said in the statement. “No time was wasted, and Mike started improving within 7-8 minutes of receiving the medication. He was completely back to normal within 30 minutes.”
After a 28-hour stay in the hospital, DiMeglio was discharged with no deficits — a remarkable outcome. However, during his stroke workup, DiMeglio also received another life-saving piece of information. “My doctors found a small aneurysm in my brain,” said DiMeglio, who is now on a blood-thinning medication and is undergoing additional testing to rule out potential neurovascular or cardiac conditions that could have caused his stroke.
DiMeglio said he is grateful for the expert stroke care he received, as well as the support of his colleagues and friends. He believes his experience will benefit him in his future career as a nurse.
“I was so thankful that Elaine and Tyler were there, and I am grateful for the physicians who are so professional and good at what they do,” DiMeglio said in the statement. “Now, I know what patients are experiencing when they have a health event, which will help me treat them with professionalism, empathy and compassion.”