Comeback of a Lifetime

An innovative medical device kept Heather Williams from succumbing to a stroke

At the age of 28, on an ordinary afternoon in Paola, Kan., Heather Williams wasn't expecting the life-threatening turn the day took. "I was sitting on my bed and suddenly threw up," she said. "It was weird. I didn't have a headache, I couldn't feel anything, and I could hardly stand." Her husband called paramedics, who suspected she was having a stroke. Paramedics rushed Williams by medical helicopter to Saint Luke's Neuroscience Institute, a regional referral center with nationally recognized intervention techniques.

Help in a Hurry 

Doctors first shot a clot-busting drug directly into Williams' blockage. Then they removed it with a corkscrew-shaped device called the Merci Retrieval System, which twists blockages out like corks from wine bottles. Saint Luke's is one of the few hospitals in the country using the device—and it saved Williams' life.

Such cutting-edge treatments helped the Brain and Stroke Institute earn recognition as one of the nation's Top 100 stroke programs, as well as accolades from Time magazine, The New York Times, and TV's Discovery Channel.

Four months after Williams' stroke, she was able-bodied and back at work, with minimal impairments. "Without Saint Luke's and a wonderful miracle from above," Williams said, "I wouldn't be alive today."

See the Merci Retrieval System in action


In 2002, Saint Luke's Neuroscience Institute became one of only five sites in the country to test the revolutionary Merci Retrieval System. Today it is the leading FDA-approved device for restoring blood flow in the brain in patients experiencing ischemic stroke.

View the video of the Merci Retrieval System »


Since the introduction of this device, many Saint Luke's patients have been spared permanent damage and disability – or worse. One such patient is John Kelly:

View John Kelly's story »


"Without Saint Luke's and a wonderful miracle from above, I wouldn't be alive today."

Heather Williams, stroke survivor

How Your Gift Helps

Private donations to Saint Luke's Neuroscience Institute help provide comprehensive treatment, prevention, and rehabilitation for patients with diseases of the nervous system and spine and advance neuroscience research and education.