From Fort Sanders Regional Health & Lifestyles

After a sudden stroke at a truck stop in East Tennessee, trucker Dave Foster of Arizona underwent a carotid endarterectomy at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville earlier this year.  The 67 year old is home in Arizona now, happy to be alive and grateful for his Tennessee medical team.

Dave, an Arizona trucker, suffered a stroke while traveling through East Tennessee. He’s grateful for the hospitable care he received at Fort Sanders Regional.

Gregarious and always up for a good laugh, Foster becomes serious when talking about how this unexpected adventure happened. Even for a man who can always find a reason to smile, a stroke is no laughing matter.

Foster was hauling a load of freight to New Jersey in early February. After a brief rest stop in White Pine, Tennessee, Foster was ready to hit the road.

“I got up in the seat and I’ll be daggone, two minutes later my whole right side started going numb,” Foster says. “I just immediately dialed 911 with my left-hand – and I’m not left-handed.”

In the few minutes it took for paramedics to arrive on the scene, Foster’s stroke symptoms dissolved and he had feeling in his right side again. Still, he decided it would be worth the time and trouble to get checked out at a hospital.

A Network of Care

Foster was taken to Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, the hospital closest to White Pine and a member of the Covenant Health stroke hospital network. After a complete assessment, it was determined Foster needed interventional treatment available at Fort Sanders Regional in Knoxville, the hub of Covenant Health’s network.

“The stroke affected the left side of his brain, and there was a very tight narrowing of the left carotid artery, the smoking gun if you will,” says Afshin Skibba, MD, a Premier Surgical vascular surgeon on staff at Fort Sanders Regional.

The major blood vessels in the neck, Dr. Skibba explains explains, supply blood to the neck, face and brain. A plaque blockage in one or both of these arteries means there’s an increased risk of stroke. Removing the blockage can be life-saving.

“A carotid endarterectomy involves opening the neck and then opening the artery, removing the blockage trouble and then repairing the artery with a patch,” Dr. Skibba says.The procedure was performed in early February. When it was over, Foster was told he would be up walking the next day. It was hard for him to believe, but it turned out to be true.

“Mr. Foster spent one night in the hospital and was discharged the following morning,” Dr. Skibba says.

Foster’s family pooled resources so his wife could be at the hospital. The couple remained in the area until Dr. Skibba felt it was safe for his stroke patient to make the long trip home to Arizona.

“It’s really weird being sick and not feeling good by yourself,” Foster says of being so far from home, “but it was just amazing the way everybody treated me. I felt like I was king of the castle.”

There’s never a good time or place for a stroke, but if Foster had to have one, he says he’s fortunate it happened near a hospital certifed as a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission. “Fort Sanders was the best place to be,” he says.

For more information about carotid artery treatment visit