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Back In The Saddle

Back In The SaddleOneof rodeo’s biggest stars is back in the ring, thanks toa team of Tufts doctors who repaired his heart and saved his career.Tell,Texas

Medford/Somerville, Mass. [07.30.03] One of rodeo’s biggest stars,Stran Smith is used to the bumps and bruises that come with hisjob. But the 32-year-old Texan was caught off guard when he suffereda mild stroke while saddling a horse in April. Smith temporarilylost his speech and his doctors thought the heart condition thatcaused his stroke would end his career. But a team of Tufts doctorsperformed an innovative procedure on the calf roping champ, fixinghis heart and saving his career.

“Thecardiologist in Amarillo told him he would never rope again,”Smith’s wife Jennifer told The Boston Herald.

Accordingto doctors, Smith had a small hole in his heart which alloweda tiny blood clot to travel to his brain, causing the stroke.

“Whilehe recovered, doctors in Texas told him he would have to takeblood thinners for life to prevent another stroke, perhaps a moreserious one,” reported the Herald. “Becausehe often suffers cuts, scrapes and kicks on the job, he wouldbe at risk of bleeding to death on the drugs.”

The newswas devastating to the rodeo star, who holds a world record inthe sport and as well as several championships.

“Doctorstold me my career was over and life as I knew it also was over,”Smith told the Idaho Statesman.

But Smith’swife wasn’t willing to give up.

Dr.DavidThalerandrodeostarStranSmith“[JenniferSmith], a reporter who covers rodeos for ESPN2 and a former TVhealth reporter, did some research and found doctors at Tufts-NewEngland Medical Center who specialize in treating young strokepatients, including those with such holes, called patent foramenovales,” reported the Herald.

Two Tuftsdoctors – Dr. David Thaler , co-director of Tufts-NEMC’scomprehensive stroke service, and Dr. Carey Kimmelstiel, headof clinical cardiology – reviewed Smith’s case. Thecardiology and neurology departments at the Tufts teaching hospitalhave special expertise in a new treatment for Smith’s condition.

“Thalerand Kimmelstiel found Smith to be a good candidate to get a [deviceknown as an "amplatzer"], a nickel-and-titanium meshthat is inserted into the hole using a catheter snaked throughthe patient’s groin,” reported the Herald.

The innovativeprocedure was successful, and the Tufts doctors – both assistantprofessors at Tufts’School of Medicine – discharged Smith just a day later.

“Anytimeyou have something like this happen you have an appreciation forlife,” Smith told the Statesman. “You’renot really ready to live until you’re ready to die.”

The recoveringrodeo star is already back in the saddle, competing in a rodeoin Texas last week.

“Iactually have a true second chance at life,” Smith toldthe Statesman.



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