Dean Schill

Dean Schill was the picture of health. The 63-year-old Flagstaff resident exercised daily and followed a low-fat diet. He even worked in the healthcare field as a nurse in the employee health department at Flagstaff Medical Center.

Then one day, he experienced about 90 seconds of fuzziness and a loss of balance. It quickly passed, so he ignored it. But after two more episodes, the last being the longest and most intense, Dean decided to listen to his body. He went to see his doctor, who was concerned that Dean had experienced a series of mini-strokes.

“I saw Dr. Eric Cohen at his office and my initial interview with him went very well. I was happy that he treated me like an emergency room patient and immediately started me on anti-clotting medication to prevent further possible strokes,” Dean says.

Tests were ordered, revealing dangerous blockages in both carotid arteries. Something had to be done. Dean underwent a minimally invasive technique at the Heart & Vascular Center of Northern Arizona that inserted stents in both of the blocked arteries – a procedure he says was pioneered by Dr. Cohen.

“The whole surgical team was excellent – very kind, considerate and caring,” Dean says. “I spent 24 hours in Cardiac ICU and also received excellent care from a wonderful staff. Today, I feel wonderful.”

Dean recently retired in July 2010, and says that without this intervention, he wouldn’t have been able to realize his 33-year dream of a transcontinental bicycle ride this summer. He rode all the way from Anacortes, Washington to Williston, South Dakota, completing 1,354 miles.

“The bike trip was on my bucket list,” Dean says. “My heart and carotids are working great now, so I’m contemplating continuing the trip and riding another 2,000 miles,” Dean says.

“Even thought I was a health professional, I needed to listen a little closer to what my body was telling me. It took three episodes to get my attention. The first one was novel. The second was short. But the last one was scary,” Dean says. “There was something going on and I needed to take care of it.”

“I feel so lucky to have found and treated a problem that could have caused a fatal stroke.”