BILLINGS - May is National Stroke Awareness Month and one retired Billings firefighter could have had a different fate if it weren’t for the help of St. Vincent Healthcare’s new stroke program.
When Tim Bergstrom finally called it quits after 33 years as a Billings firefighter — most recently as a Battalion Chief — he thought he was saying goodbye to his team.
“It’s kind of a young man’s game and I was about 60, so I left at that time,” said Bergstrom.
Little did he know firefighters would be responding to him after he had a stroke on March 21.
“I had this stroke and I was completely incapacitated in my house,” he said.
Luckily, Bergstrom's wife, Terry, was by his side when he collapsed.
“He hadn’t been slurring words or anything. There were no symptoms at all until it happened,” she said.
She quickly called 911 and Bergstrom was rushed to St. Vincent Healthcare within minutes.
“He’s had pretty much a miraculous recovery from his stroke,” said SCL Health neurology specialist Dr. Jeffery Moser.
New stroke technology that arrived at the hospital just last October lead to Bergstrom's miraculous recovery.
“He had a blockage in the main artery to the left side of the brain that supplies 80% of the blood to the left hemisphere,” Mosser said.
Doctors gave Bergstrom a tissue plasminogen activator, basically a clot-dissolving drug that limits damage to the brain.
Then they retrieved what was left of the clot after it moved down the artery stream.
“They were able to open up all the circulation again within an hour or two and the brain didn’t sustain nearly the damage it could have before,” said Mosser.
Mosser would know, he’s been in neurology for more than 40 years.
“He would never have been able to walk again, or use his right side, probably never been able to talk more than a few words,” said Mosser.
Bergstrom has since made a remarkable recovery. He even got to ride his motorcycle just last week.
While he still has some trouble with speech, Mosser says he’s nearly 95% recovered from his stroke, in large part because his wife and first responders acted so quickly.
“They need to get people to respond right away, as soon as they can get you, it’s better,” Bergstrom said.
The family is grateful to have this new tech only four minutes away from their home.
“It’s nothing less than a miracle really,” said his wife Terry.