Romeo Holland, 7, and his mother Sherece Holland, 55 discuss Romeo’s quick actions by calling 911 after his mother suffered a stroke. Joining the Hollands at the press conference are Dr. Melvin Wichter chair of neurology and co-director of the Neurosciences Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center, and Dr. Scott Geraghty, neurointerventional radiologist with the Neurosciences Institute at Advocate Christ Medical Center (at right)The Neurocritical Care Unit at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn marked its one-year anniversary Monday by moving to a new location within the hospital and getting reacquainted with a woman whose life they helped save with the help of her son.
During the anniversary event, physicians, nurses and care team members were able to be reunited with some of the patients and families they’ve treated since moving to the new unit, including former patient and Chicago Police Officer Sherece Holland, who suffered a stroke in December. It was the quick thinking of her 7-year-old son, Romeo, which led her into the care of the Neurocritical Care Unit at the hospital.
Holland, 55, of Chicago, said she was in good health at the time of the stroke. She has been working for the Chicago Lawn (8th) District for over 21 years.
“I have no health issues,” she said. “I am a non-smoker who exercises regularly. I also have no history of strokes in my family.”
She was in the middle of brushing her teeth alongside her son when the incident occurred.
“I was just standing there holding his toothbrush that day instead of helping him brush his teeth as I normally do,” Holland said. “Romeo noticed something was very wrong because I almost fell, so he ran to get my mother, who lives with us.”
Holland said her mother, Barbara Hegwood, 77, began to panic after seeing her daughter displaying some signs of a stroke — having trouble speaking and moving her arms. That’s when Romeo stepped in, telling his grandmother to calm down and leading her to their emergency call button.
“She was wobbly, I just thought she was sleepy at first but she was actually having a stroke,” Romeo said. “My grandma was crying. I told her to stay calm and that everything will be fine.”
Romeo used her hand to call for help, but it was the boy who spoke with the dispatchers on the line.
“I had taught Romeo what to do in case of a health emergency with my mother,” Holland said. “He knew to call for help, but I never would have imagined he’d use those skills to take care of me. I am very proud of my son. He acted quickly and saved my life.”
EMS arrived to Holland’s home and transported Holland to Advocate Christ Medical Center, where it was discovered that she had suffered a blood clot that blocked the artery leading to the left side of the brain. Dr. Scott Geraghty, neurointerventional radiologist with the Neurosciences Institute at Christ Medical Center, performed a thrombectomy, removing the clot in her artery and allowing blood to flow to the brain.
Upon arriving at the hospital, Holland was unable to speak and the right side of her face was completely paralyzed, according to Geraghty.
“If Romeo had suggested his mother go lay down on the couch and rest when he noticed her feeling dizzy, instead of calling 911, there’s a good chance she would have never woken up,” Geraghty said. “In this case, his actions saved his mother’s life.”
Dr. Melvin Wichter, chair of neurology and co-director of the Neurosciences Institute agreed it was Romeo’s fast response that prevented Holland from suffering brain damage or death.
“We can do amazing things if people get to the hospital quick enough,” Wichter said. “In Romeo’s situation, this was the best Christmas gift he will ever receive, having his mother still here with him today thanks to his actions.”
Wichter said children should be educated both at home and in the classroom setting on recognizing signs of stroke in order to help family members in need.
Holland’s recovery is going so well that she has been discharged from therapy and is back at home with Romeo. She is experiencing slight slurred speech and a minor stutter, but otherwise feels back to normal. She has not yet returned to work.
“When I found out my son saved my life, I didn’t know what to feel,” Holland said. “He is just such a smart boy.”
Romeo is happy to have his mother with him today.
“I’m happy she is here,” he said. “I love my mom.”
Neurocritical care or neurointensive care is a branch of medicine that emerged in the 1980s and deals with life-threatening diseases of the nervous system, which are those that involve the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Common diseases treated in neurointensive care units include strokes, ruptured aneurysms, brain and spinal cord injury from trauma and seizures.
The Neurocritical Care Unit at Advocate Christ Medical Center is staffed by a team of neurointensivists, consulting neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuro-endovascular radiologists, trauma surgeons, nurse practitioners, nurses and technologists specially trained in the care of the nervous system disorders and acute injury. At Advocate Christ Medical Neurosciences Institute, these specialists provide the highest level of neurological care in an environment where patients receive the individualized and appropriate care needed. The hospital integrates a full array of treatments and expertise to address the many dimensions of neurologic care for adults and children, according to Advocate Christ Medical Center officials.
Romeo is in the second grade at Stevenson Elementary School in Chicago’s Scottsdale neighborhood and plans to continue his love for knowledge as he grows older.
“When I grow up, I want to become a scientist because I’m smart,” he said.
“That he is,” his mother agreed.