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Hysham family shares story of stroke recovery

By Jackie Coffin,


St. Vincent Healthcare received national certification for advanced stroke care, two years after it launched the state's first full-time interventional stroke program.

In those two years, Montanans across the state have been traveling to Billings for life-saving stroke care, including the Miller family of Hysham.

This past October, 89-year-old Pat Miller suffered a significant stroke at her home in Hysham.

"I was in shock, we’ll put it that way," says Bob Miller, Pat's husband of 71 years. "She was in good health, she was on medication that was supposed to prevent that, but as the doctors say, nothing is 100%, so I was thrown for a loop.”

Pat was flown by life-flight to Billings where she underwent an endovascular thrombectomy, a procedure that removes a clot blocking blood flow to the brain, one of the two main causes of stroke.

Pat is one of 25 patients who has undergone the thrombectomy procedure since St. Vincent launched its interventional stroke program in 2021.

Dr. James Richards, the hospital's stroke director, has been following her progress.

“Even five years ago she probably would have been left paralyzed on the left side, with no arm function, maybe some of the leg function would have come back, depending the way the brain was organized," Richards said. "She would have been hugely impacted as far as her long-term outcome, especially a lady her age, where typically things don’t recover as well. So she’s really surprised us in a very good way.”

Richards calls Pat remarkable and Pat's husband, Bob, and her daughter, Lisa Criswell, agree.

“It’s just been tremendous, her improvement. We’ve been living together for 71 years, and I’d like at least a couple more," Bob Miller said.

As she works on recovering her writing, strength, and mobility, Pat is thankful for her family and all the healthcare providers.

“The almighty also sends you some angels to get through it, and they’re my angels," Pat said.

The Advanced Thrombectomy-Capable Stroke Center Certification was awarded to St. Vincent by The Joint Commission, meaning it meets the healthcare industry's most rigorous standards for performing endovascular thrombectomy and patient care.

St. Vincent Healthcare is part of Intermountain Health.

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