I felt like, as a 28-year-old millennial, you basically do things in life where you feel like you can do anything. But what I've learned is that you just don't take time for granted.
Ramit Malhotra says he’s addicted to being alive.
“You’re given this opportunity to wake up every day and be around people that care about you,” he says. “To see these people every day becomes an addiction. You’d be just grateful to be around people and be in the moment in every situation. Nothing distracts you. You just feel so happy to be in front of people. That's the way I feel now, as a result of having a stroke.”
Ramit isn’t what many people would consider a typical stroke candidate. The 28-year-old Long Island man was healthy — he had no major health problems, worked out regularly, and did not smoke or drink. Still, one night in March, after finishing a weight training session at the gym, he felt an intense pain in his neck and began to feel off-balance. On April 17, a month of dizziness, neck pain, and health concerns reached the tipping point.
Ramit was driving on the Long Island Expressway when he felt a shooting pain in his neck. He decided to call his fiancé, Sumiti. During the call, Sumiti says Ramit’s speech became slurred. Ramit knew that he had to get off the highway and get help, so he pulled off at the Main Street exit in Flushing and made his way to a bank parking lot. Next thing he knew, Ramit was in a bed at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens. He learned that he had suffered a stroke.
While Ramit was unconscious, Dr. Jay Yasen, an attending neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, evaluated him for a stroke ordering a CT scan to determine the type of stroke. Dr. Yasen gave Ramit tPA, a medication used to dissolve blood clots. He was then taken to the intensive care unit to recover. Despite receiving this life-saving medication, Ramit began to deteriorate — he became less responsive, and his arms and legs were very weak.
Dr. Ning Lin, and Dr. Srikanth Boddu, neurosurgeons and interventional stroke specialists at both the Weill Cornell Brain and Spine Center and NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, were called in to provide expert care. Concerned that a blood clot may have traveled to his brain stem, the neurointerventional stroke team rushed Ramit to the angiography suite — a room that has state-of-the-art imaging technology that provides the most advanced tools for diagnosis and treatment of acute ischemic stroke. A small catheter was inserted into Ramit’s body to evaluate the exact location of arterial blockage, and he was given medication to unblock the blood vessels. Mechanical thrombectomy was also planned — a small stent used to remove blood clots and open blood vessels. Fortunately, the medication worked well and Ramit’s vessels opened up completely.
When Ramit awoke, doctors were able to explain to him why he’d been feeling unwell since March. On the day he was lifting weights and felt severe pain, he had a right vertebral artery dissection, a rare condition where an artery is torn. To heal the torn artery, blood platelets began to clump together, forming a blood clot that then traveled to the right side of Ramit’s brain. This caused him to have a stroke. He had two additional strokes the day he arrived at the hospital.
“I felt like, as a 28-year-old millennial, you basically do things in life where you feel like you can do anything,” Ramit says. “You feel like you can really take time for granted. But what I've learned is that you just don't take time for granted. Soak in every moment and don't take your body for granted either.”
Having survived the stroke, Ramit was focused on being able to walk down the aisle with his bride in three months. With the help of his large family and the stroke rehab team at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens, Ramit got married in June.
“Even though I was unsure if I was physically able to get married, I had felt such a desire to make it happen. It just became so clear to me that this needs to happen now,” he says. “I wanted to get married then and there. Just as I view the stroke a blessing in other ways, this was another point of clarity. Like getting married then and there was something that I really wanted to do. And so when it came time for my wedding, I was as prepared as ever, and so emotionally ready to get married.”
Dr. Lin attributes Ramit’s successful recovery to the prompt treatment and multi-disciplinary collaboration at the Hospital. Since Ramit was at the Hospital when his symptoms started to worsen, they were able to catch it right away.
“I don't know who treated me at the ER, but they were a part of the team that diagnosed me with what was a very rare condition extremely quickly, and quickly enough for me to recover the way I have. They gave me hope in my darkest moment,” he says.