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Healthy living is my passion but a brainstem stroke nearly killed me.

Healthy living is my passion. I’m a devoted runner and veteran of 32 marathons, and oversaw the physical fitness training of more than 1,600 soldiers as Fitness Program Manager for the 131st Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard. I retired from the military in 2009, after more than 40 years of service.

No one could have predicted that, on Sept. 16, 2010, I would suffer a debilitating brainstem stroke that would nearly kill me. I was overcome by intense dizziness and nausea while driving, and was rushed to St. Anthony’s Medical Center, where an MRI, CT scan and spinal tap revealed nothing abnormal. Interventional radiologist Mazen AbuAwad, M.D. performed an angiogram and, after reviewing the films and consulting with a neurologist, found a suspicious area and performed the procedure again for a closer look. He discovered and destroyed a tiny blood clot lodged in the brainstem, which controls a person’s breathing and heart rate. The cause of the clot remains inexplicable.

I spent seven weeks in the Neuro Intensive Care Unit at St. Anthony’s, where I required both a feeding tube and a tracheostomy. Six times in seven weeks, I went into respiratory distress and required emergency life support. For a time I was unable to swallow, hear, speak or write, and for the rest of my life I will use a ventilator when I sleep.

I’ve come a long way, and am working daily to make each day better than the one before. Despite issues with vertigo and balance, I’ve progressed from walking with total assistance to using a walker or cane, and continue to improve with daily exercise and rehab training. On my 62nd birthday in November 2012, I walked one mile, without taking a break, to raise money for stroke awareness.

My family and I are confident that my exceptional hospital care, coupled with my physical strength and mental health, have enabled me to survive my most difficult race of all. Dr. AbuAwad is awesome, and is the reason I am here!

I’d also like to thank doctors James Alonso, M.D.; Richard Mrad, M.D.; Kirk Nelson, D.O.; Todd Pritz, M.D.; Venkat K.C. Rao, M.D.; Tara Talwar, M.D.; and Emily Ziaee, M.D.; nurses Alicia, Jena, Kim and Sabina; respiratory therapists Darlene, Pam and Steve; physical therapist Janelle; speech therapist, Megan and Same-Day Surgery receptionists Karen and Kelly. Numerous others, unnamed, helped my family through the most difficult time in our lives. We love you, St. Anthony’s!

James A. (Jim)  Indelicato
South County


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Working as trusted partners, the physicians and employees of St. Anthony's Health System will deliver care distinguished by its demonstrated quality and personalized service. We will be visibly engaged in improving the health and well­ being of the communities we serve in South County and beyond. We will stand together, proud to set the standard for independent community health systems.