Andrea O's Neurological ICU Story

May 28, 2019


When Andrea Olivera suddenly awoke early one morning, she knew something wasn’t quite right.  Her husband Gil saw it immediately: his wife’s face drooped, her speech slurred, she was weak along the right side of her body.

Gil rushed to call 911. As Andrea battled a severe stroke, his quick thinking set in motion a race to the hospital for what would ultimately be a life-saving procedure. Just three days later, Andrea was able to leave the hospital and today is living life grateful for the advanced medical care and state-of-the-art technology at Abrazo Community Health Network.

“It’s been a miracle,” says Gil. “I tell people, God forbid, if you ever have a stroke or anything that serious, go to Abrazo and they will take care of you.”

“She had a massive stroke and the fact that it happened on October 4 and she was out of the hospital October 7, with just a little slur in her speech, is just amazing,” he says.

That October morning, Andrea was rushed to Abrazo Arrowhead Campus, where the emergency room physician confirmed that she was having a stroke. As Andrea’s condition quickly deteriorated, the staff worked to keep her stable and consulted with Dr. Ahmed El-Gengaihy, a board-certified vascular neurologist. 

Dr. El-Gengaihy recommended that Andrea be transferred to Abrazo Central Campus for treatment in its biplane endovascular suite. The state-of-the-art suite afforded Andrea’s team everything it needed to save her life. Up-to-the-minute imaging of the blood vessels in Andrea’s brain showed that she had a clot in the basilar artery, a critical artery that feeds the brain so it can control breathing and heart function.

Using a tool called a Solitaire stent-retriever, Dr. El-Gengaihy went to work removing the monstrous clot from the basilar artery to restore the life-giving blood flow to Andrea’s brain.

At the same time, Dr. Sam Alnajjar, a board-certified neurointensivist, went to work on another vital part of Andrea’s care: understanding what caused the stroke and how to prevent it from happening again. Dr. Alnajjar located a possible source, a hole in Andrea’s heart. This can cause a clot to shift and then be propelled into the central circulation and ultimately the brain, causing a severe stroke.

With that discovery, Andrea’s doctors put together a care plan designed to keep her from suffering additional strokes.

From the endovascular suite, Andrea moved to the neurological intensive care unit. The specialized unit, at Abrazo Central Campus, includes a specially trained team of doctors and nurses who assess, treat and evaluate their patients for even the slightest anomaly.

Hours after the procedure, Andrea was sleeping when Dr. El-Gengaihy came to her bedside. She awoke and was determined to shake his hand.

“I wanted to meet the man who saved my life,” she recalls. “To me, he is my hero.”

Andrea is again living life fully, enjoying golf and playing bridge with friends. She and Gil are also helping educate others about stroke risks and treatment. The couple praises Abrazo Community Health Network.

“From point A to point B, everyone was fantastic,” says Gil. “As far as I’m concerned, that’s why she is alive today.”

Disclaimer: Dr. Ahmed El-Gengaih and Dr. Sam Alnajjar are independent physicians and are not employees, agents or representatives of Abrazo Community Health Network’s Abrazo Central Campus. They are solely responsible for the provision of their medical services to their patients. For more health information, go to