Dr. Robert Ecker dons a white surgical coat for his job at Maine Medical Center in Portland, but when he tells people what he does for a living – or explains to patients’ loved ones what he’s about to do – he goes blue collar.
“I do body plumbing,” Ecker says with a wry smile.
Ecker, a neurosurgeon who participated in groundbreaking national stroke research, holds a thin wire that turns into a tiny mesh at one end. It’s a surgical tool he has used hundreds of times in the past few years to save lives and prevent patients from suffering the debilitating effects of strokes – including paralysis and the loss of speech. Sixty percent can live independently within 90 days after the procedure, as long as the surgery is done within 4 1/2 hours after the onset of a stroke, which occurs when blood flow is cut off to a part of the brain.