Joey's Story: Chief Operating Officer

Jun 6, 2019

Hospital COO saved by own stroke center

Joey Bulfin, chief operating officer, St. Mary's Medical Center and Palm Beach Children's Hospital

Our-Stories-BulfinAfter working at St. Mary's Medical Center for over three decades, Joey Bulfin never thought the hospital she had come to know so well would one day save her life.

Joey began working as an RN in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in 1980 and was promoted to Chief Nursing Officer in 2005. Her hard work and dedication paid off, and six years later, she advanced to Chief Operating Officer, responsible for St. Mary's daily operations.

One day, during her usual morning workout at the gym, she stepped onto the treadmill and immediately felt strange. She was nauseous, had blurred vision and felt a heavy sensation on the left side of her body. From her nursing background, she instantly recognized these symptoms as signs of a stroke.

"I exercised regularly, didn't have any heart issues, didn't smoke and wasn't overweight," Joey says. "I was healthy and didn't have any of the typical risk factors, so my stroke came as a complete surprise to me."

Joey had her husband drive her to St. Mary's Medical Center, knowing she would be in good hands at the hospital's Comprehensive Stroke Center.

The stroke team performed tests that confirmed her instinctual diagnosis. Within an hour of the incident, Joey received tissue plasminogen activator, (tPA), a medication that assists with the breakdown of blood clots.

"I began feeling like my normal self almost immediately," she recalls.

Joey was then transferred to the neurointerventional suite, where Dr. Ali Malek, medical director of the stroke program, discovered the source of her stroke.

"Apparently the inner lining of an artery in my neck had somehow become damaged," Joey says. "I spent two days in the St. Mary's intensive care unit, receiving outstanding care from all of the doctors and nurses throughout my extensive follow-up testing."

Amazingly, she returned to the hospital only two days after being discharged, not as a patient, but as an employee.

"My life as I now know it could be very different if it wasn't for the quick response of the stroke team," she says. "I am so grateful to be able to play a role in ensuring that St. Mary's runs efficiently and effectively and continues to save the lives of patients like myself."

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Quick action after stroke helped save executive's life