Golfer Gives to Stroke Care

Mary and Tim O’Brien Donate $100,000

Mary O’Brien’s golf game was going great. The technology integration specialist and boys’ varsity golf coach at Weston High School, Mary was playing an interclub match at The Country Club in Brookline. After playing like a pro the first four holes, something changed.

“I was getting set to tee off, and I just felt odd,” she recalled. “I couldn’t see anything on my left side.” She hit the shot poorly. As she continued down the fairway, her vision problem worsened. “I turned to my partner and said, ‘I think I’m in trouble. Someone needs to call 911.’”

Though Boston hospitals were closer, Mary asked the ambulance to take her to the Lahey Hospital & Medical Center Emergency Department. “I said, ‘If I’m not critical, I want to go to Lahey. All my doctors are there. All my records are there. They know me at Lahey.”

Mary was examined in the ED by a neurologist and admitted for testing. A CT scan and MRI revealed that she had experienced a transient ischemic attack (TIA) — also known as a “mini stroke” or “warning stroke” — due to a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain. Though they don’t cause permanent damage, TIAs can indicate the likelihood of a coming stroke, which can be debilitating or fatal. Mary spent two days in the hospital being treated with blood thinners, which she’s been taking ever since.

An investment in lifesaving care

Now, 10 years after that life-altering golf match, Mary and her husband Tim have made a major gift to the hospital in gratitude for the outstanding care they have both received from Lahey over the years. In February, the couple donated $100,000 in support of a new interventional angiography suite and the Stroke Center, which has highly skilled neurologists, interventional neuroradiologists and neurosurgeons on staff.

Ajay Wakhloo, MD, the chair of interventional neuroradiology, said the O’Briens’ gift was vital.  “Thanks to donors like Mary and Tim, we are installing the latest technology to save lives and improve the detection and treatment of neurological disease,” he said.

Longtime supporters of Lahey, Mary and Tim value the hospital’s culture of collaboration and see it firsthand among their physicians. “They’re really interested in me as an individual,” Mary said. “That’s a big part of the Lahey experience.”

Because she knew enough to get immediate medical attention after her stroke, Mary is eager to share that knowledge with others and promote greater awareness of stroke risk factors, warning signs, and prevention. “Lahey is making it easier for more people to get checked out and treated,” Mary said. “My husband and I feel it’s so important to make this quality care available for everybody. It’s going to save lives.”

Mary, who is turning 70, plans to retire this fall — freeing up more time to spend with her family, explore doctoral programs, and of course, play more golf.