May is National Stroke Awareness Month. Read the inspiring patient success story of a UConn Health stroke survivor patient named Kevin Verge. He will be running the virtual UConn Health Half Marathon June 4-7.
At 39 years old, Kevin Verge was doing everything right to actively manage his health. Training for his 9th marathon in fall 2019 had him feeling the fittest he’d ever been; which is saying a lot for a former captain of Columbia University’s track team who started running races with his father at 7 years old.
Just two months later though, Verge suffered a massive cerebellar stroke and was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at UConn Health in Farmington. The outlook was not positive. A blood clot had traveled to his brain and broke into three pieces, causing three simultaneous strokes. The severity of swelling in his brain upon his admittance raised grave concern about the need for surgery.
But that didn’t end up happening. Verge credits his recovery on the commitment and well-coordinated team efforts of UConn John Dempsey Hospital’s highly effective doctors and nurses who excelled in a very time-sensitive and high stress situation.
UConn Health’s Dr. Mason Leeman-Markowski, of neurology, led the coordinated efforts and treatment to reduce the swelling on his brain. Verge’s team also included Dr. David Choi, of neurosurgery, who monitored hourly neurological exams to ensure Verge didn’t experience decreases in mental capacity. Dr. Andre Kaplan, of nephrology, monitored sodium levels and kidney function, which was being severely impacted by the treatment that was required to reduce his brain swelling.
Verge spent nine days in the ICU with his family by his side, day and night. His team of doctors and nurses became an extension of his family, championing his recovery with thoughtful care and attention.
“I will forever be grateful for the tremendous care I received at UConn Health,” says Verge. “They operated as a team and remained focused on my well-being. But it’s not just the doctors who went above and beyond – the ICU nurses responsible for administering medicine kept me focused and motivated to make it to the next day and meet my next milestone.”
Verge fondly recalls his ICU nurse, Christian Tuesta, who stayed with him during procedures, always provided a positive presence and consistently made timely jokes to bring light to a dark situation. Dr. Mario Perez, who oversaw the ICU team, worked to keep Verge’s vitals stable, allowing the stroke treatment to be effective.
“When I walked out of the ICU, I don’t know who was happier for me – my UConn Health team or my family,” stressed Verge.
With an alarming history of clotting on his father’s side, Verge was proactive about his health to be “ready to fight” if any hereditary issue came up. He had no previous issues, but his father had a pulmonary embolism at 42 years old and a pacemaker inserted at UConn Health in December 2019 by cardiologist Dr. Heiko Schmitt. Schmitt thoroughly evaluated Verge and continues to closely monitor him to determine if the family history of heart conditions could have caused the stroke.
Verge credits the unrivaled level of expertise at UConn Health with his success, walking out of the ICU in January and supporting him back to a normal life. He returned to his job as vice president and counsel for Pratt & Whitney and has since joined the Board of Directors of the Hartford Marathon Foundation.
Two years after pushing his now 4-year-old-son Liam in a stroller through Simsbury in the 10K race, Verge will run the UConn Health Half Marathon. His training is well underway and he even has his race route planned.
“The mission of HMF resonates with me and it has throughout my life,” shared Verge. “I’m incredibly honored to be in a position to participate in the UConn Health Half Marathon as my first race after my stroke. It may be virtual but it’s still very meaningful for me.”
This year’s virtual participation will support the dedication and efforts of UConn Health’s heroes of doctors, nurses, and staff caring for COVID-19 patients on the front lines at UConn John Dempsey Hospital. A portion of each registration will be donated to the UConn Health COVID-19 Rapid Response Fund.
For details or to sign up for the UConn Health Half Marathon, 10K, 5K virtual race weekend, please visit, here.