Paula Manchester, a lively Columbus native, had been healthy and active her entire life. She exercised regularly and spent leisure time with her husband and their three grown children.
"Every year at my physical exam, my doctor told me that my body was in tip-top condition," Paula recalled. "I felt great."
But in one split second, on a chilly Ohio day in November, 2010, everything changed when one side of her body suddenly went numb and limp. Paula, at the young age of 54, was having a stroke.
"There were no signs," Paula said of her unexpected stroke. "I was at a healthy weight. I had never been a smoker. My blood pressure and cholesterol were both at normal levels. I wondered how this could happen to someone like me."
For nine days Paula was hospitalized while her physicians continued to run tests. A brain angiogram finally showed the possibility of fibromuscular dysplasia in her carotid arteries. The diagnosis, however, was not confirmed until a follow-up MRI three months after the initial stroke.
Fibromuscular dysplasia, more commonly referred to as FMD, is a disease that can cause stenosis of the arteries, usually those in the kidneys and those that supply blood to the brain. As a result of this arterial narrowing, a heart attack or stroke can occur.
FMD, a rare disease, often does not lead to any noticeable symptoms. Occasionally, FMD patients will experience headaches or ringing in the ears; minor symptoms that can be easily ignored or misdiagnosed.
So, while Paula's stroke could not be linked directly to her FMD diagnosis, her neurologist at home in Columbus believed it to be it to be the cause.
"Naturally, I was concerned about being diagnosed with a condition like FMD that has no known cause and usually presents no symptoms," Paula said. "Was I at risk of suffering another unexpected stroke or facing other serious complications? Was I doing everything I could to manage my disease at home? I wanted another opinion."
Paula surfed the Web, looking for answers to her questions about living with FMD. It was through an Internet search engine that she came across Dr. Heather Gornik's name, a Cleveland Clinic vascular physician who specializes in fibromuscular dysplasia.
"After reading about Dr. Gornik and the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic Heart and Vascular Institute online, I knew I wanted to get a second opinion at Cleveland Clinic," Paula said. "When I called to make an appointment, the knowledgeable Patient Service Representative informed me that I could receive a second opinion from Cleveland Clinic through the Internet."
The service that the Patient Service Representative was referring to is the MyConsult Online Medical Second Opinion program; a sophisticated, Web-based extension of Cleveland Clinic's 90-plus-year role as one of America's respected referral institutions. The secure, online program provides medical second opinions from Cleveland Clinic specialists for more than 1,200 life-threatening and life-changing diagnoses.
"Immediately, I knew I wanted to take advantage of the MyConsult® Online Medical Second Opinion program," Paula said. "I was still recovering from my recent stroke, overcoming neurological impairments that made some physical and cognitive tasks, like traveling, difficult for me. Receiving a second opinion from the comfort of my own home was a wonderful opportunity for someone like me."
Shortly after sending her medical records and test results to Cleveland Clinic, Paula received her MyConsult Online Medical Second Opinion report, completed by Dr. Gornik, the physician she had requested. She was pleased with how quickly she heard back and with the thoroughness of the report.
"Dr. Gornik confirmed my diagnosis of FMD and agreed with the medication routine that neurologist had prescribed to me," Paula said. "She also recommended that I discuss undergoing a renal artery scan with my treating physicians at home to find out if FMD was affecting the arteries in my kidneys."
Per Dr. Gornik's suggestion, Paula's physicians ordered the test to be done at her home medical facility in Columbus and those results indicated that her renal arteries were free of FMD, instantly lifting a weight off her shoulders.
Since her stroke, Paula has made great strides. She has started a light exercise routine and was able to celebrate her oldest son's wedding day on May 31, 2011.
"I gained a sense of relief from the MyConsult Online Medical Second Opinion I received from Dr. Gornik and Cleveland Clinic," Paula said. "I know that FMD is always going to be part of me, but I feel confident knowing I'm as healthy as I can be and I don't have to live in fear of having another stroke every day. I take life one day at a time and I focus on myself and my family now."
*Name has been changed to protect patient's privacy