By Stephanie Stahl


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Surviving a rare stroke is something that many doctors have never seen. Now, a Bucks County woman is sharing her incredible story of survival.

This is a testament to the importance of quick intervention when dealing with a stroke, but this is also a love story, sprinkled with a big dose of luck.

Moving both arms up had been impossible for Debbie O’Neill. The busy Langhorne grandmother, who loved traveling with her husband, was suddenly paralyzed one night in early June.

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“That first night was like getting hit in the face with a sledgehammer,” her husband, Bernie O’Neill, said.

She had a stroke on both sides of her brain. Doctors explained to her husband that it was a situation they had never seen.

But fate quickly turned in their favor, as she was flown to Jefferson University Hospital, where Dr. Pascal Jabbour performed a mechanical thrombectomy.

“This was very critical, the results would have been devastating and we had really a short period of time where we could intervene,” Dr. Jabbour said.

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It was the first time he had ever treated this kind of stroke that caused a double blockage in the brain. He used something called a stentriever that was threaded into each clot with a catheter.

“This will open in the vessel and will incorporate the clot inside of it, then after it’s there, we’ll pull it outside of the body,” Dr. Jabbour explained.

Against all of the odds, Debbie O’Neill is recovering.

“I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do anything anymore. It was very hard because I’m a very active person,” she said.

She is working hard in rehab and has plans for the future, which includes celebrating her 42nd wedding anniversary.

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“Everybody is telling me this is like a miracle, this just doesn’t happen, we don’t see this happen, people making this significant progress this early,” her husband said.

The O’Neills are both so grateful and are planning their next trip.

Jefferson University Hospital now has a Mobile Stroke Unit to serve patients in the far Northeast and lower Bucks County, helping them get treatment quicker.

Stephanie Stahl