“We saw fairly dramatic changes … two weeks later, he’s almost made a full recovery.”


When a severe stroke struck down Brent Woitas and left him with little hope of recovery, he turned to an experimental treatment that had never been tested to give him a new lease on life.

Now recovering from the procedure, the 35-year-old is praising researchers who came up with the idea when all other medical options looked quite grim.

“I’m very lucky,” he said. “If anyone else requests something like this, it’s a great opportunity for them.”

The new medical treatment created at the University of Alberta hospital combines a clot-busting drug with an arterial catheter that enhances blood flow throughout the body.

Looking like two tiny balloons on a string, the device is inserted into the abdomen and inflated inside a main artery. The result allows blood to flow more freely around a blood clot in the brain, decreasing the impacts of a severe stroke.

Dr. Ashfaq Shuaib, clinical director of the hospital’s stroke program, said the serious condition and younger age of Woitas made him an ideal candidate as the world’s first recipient of the experimental treatment.

“We were happy that there were no complications in this procedure and, to our surprise, we saw fairly dramatic changes,” he said. “The next day he started to improve and then, two weeks later, he’s almost made a full recovery.”

The hospital now plans on testing the procedure on nine more patients in an ongoing clinical study for Health Canada. The odds of recovering from a stroke are one out of seven with current treatments, but researchers are hoping the new procedure will save more lives.

“We have to be careful when we talk about one patient, but all of us are convinced that it is the reason why he’s doing so well today,” he added.