SA man survives massive stroke to meet newborn grandbabies

A special Father's Day for family thankful to have their patriarch with them

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Father's Day always means some special family time, but for one San Antonio family this year is the most important yet.

Four-month-old twins Isla and Oren don bibs reading "Grateful for Grandpa." The words ring true for the whole family.

On Nov. 30, shooting neck pain landed Richard Willis in the emergency room.

"The next thing I remember, I woke up 65 days later having been in a coma the entire time. To find out that in fact I did have a stroke," Willis said. It was a massive stroke.

"Most people would have a clot sitting in a blood vessel. He didn't. His blood vessel had exploded," said Methodist Hospital's Neuro Critical Care Dr. Christopher Burdick.

On top of that, within the first week of his coma, Willis' lungs filled with fluid and his blood vessels constricted.

Those severe issues combined with a bleeding brain, Burdick said, "You're almost at 100 percent mortality rate at that point."

Yet after two months of care Willis woke up from the coma, just in time for one of life's biggest moments.

"They were born on Valentine's Day," Willis said looking down at his two new grandchildren. He's spending as much grandpa time as possible.

"Whether it's the stroke situation or other situations, you never really know how things are going to turn out," he said.

One thing is for certain: Sunday is the best Father's Day he has ever had.

Willis' doctors say he survived the stroke because he took quick action, saying if you're ever having a terrible headache or symptoms that don't seem normal, go to the hospital immediately.

Burdick said in the case of a stroke, the longer a patient waits, the more brain function he/she loses.

He said it's also a good idea to look up the closest comprehensive stroke center. There are several in town and they have specific interventions other stroke centers may not.

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