Duke released a statement on Monday night confirming that Debbie Krzyzewski Savarino, the oldest daughter of Mike Krzyzewski, suffered a mild stroke as a result of a vertebral artery dissection “several weeks ago.” She is expected to make a full recovery, according to the short AP article from Yahoo! Sports (linked above) and a more detailed writeup from Durham’s Herald-Sun. Mrs. Savarino, 40, is in fact already back at work in her position as assistant director of Duke’s Legacy Fund and Director of External Relations for Duke basketball.
Vertebral artery dissection is a leading cause of strokes in younger patients, especially those under 45. If you place your fingers on either side of your neck (gently), you’ll feel the pulse from your carotid artery. The vertebral artery runs right behind and parallel to the carotid, along the vertebrae in the neck, and supplies blood to the brain. Dissection doesn’t mean that the artery opens up and blood empties out into the body, but rather that one of the layers of the artery’s inner lining breaks and blood flows into the wall, causing it to bulge, get trapped, and then clot. The clot obstructs the normal flow of blood through the artery and therefore to the brain, and the patient starts having any of numerous symptoms, like headache, dizziness, loss of coordination, facial droop (we don’t know what Mrs. Savarino’s symptoms were and will not speculate) — in other words, the symptoms people usually associate with a stroke. Obviously all strokes are inherently dangerous, and the possibility of long-term deficits is always there, but patients who experience a stroke caused by vertebral artery dissection often have good outcomes with little or no lingering effects.
Every single person here at RTC extends their prayers and well-wishes for Mrs. Savarino, and we’re elated to read about what sounds like a great prognosis and a full recovery.