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Retired lawyer solves her own case

  • Author: Marilyn Cohen
  • Date Submitted: Jan 19, 2023
  • Category: Stroke

Former lawyer and stroke survivor, Marilyn solves her most important case

It was the Tuesday before Memorial Day. Marilyn Cohen, a very active 81-year-old retired lawyer, got in her car to go the Crescent City Farmer’s Market and struggled to fasten her seatbelt. She couldn’t use her left hand. She tried backing out of the driveway, but with the weakness in her hand, realized she shouldn’t be driving. She went back into the house and called her son. 
“I had to get to Touro.” Marilyn recalled. “I insisted I had to go to Touro.” She was scared and unsure what was happening. She recalled experiencing some double vision in the last few months, but an ophthalmologist checked her out and determined her eyes were fine. Maybe ocular migraines were causing it, but Marilyn didn’t follow up. She was really more concerned about taking care of her husband, who had multiple complications from diabetes in the last couple of years of his life. Now, she found herself in the ER at Touro. The stroke team was called immediately and began protocols. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) showed insufficient oxygen to her brain, and doppler ultrasound diagnosed a 95 to 99% blockage in the right carotid artery as the cause. Marilyn was having a stroke. “Laurie Schluter, NP, Stroke Program Coordinator, and Sheryl Martin-Schild, MD, Medical Director of the stroke team, stayed right there with me,” Marilyn said. “Laurie was educating me about what was happening. And Dr. Martin-Schild was just smart as a whip.”

Meaningful communication

Marilyn needed surgery to unblock the artery. Touro Cardiovascular Surgeon Eugene Kukuy, MD, met with her to explain what that would entail. Even though surgery was the only treatment option, she was hesitant due to her age. 

So, as a former medical malpractice defense lawyer who also taught legal writing at the University of New Orleans, she did what every good lawyer does. She asked a lot of questions and researched her case. Marilyn believes that once a patient is informed, it takes the scary mystery
out of it. “I felt so alone. Before agreeing to surgery, it was important for me to understand everything. They actually love to give you the information. Every stroke team member was more than gracious about putting explanations in laymen’s terms,” Marilyn recalled. “They indulged my curiosity in the most meaningful way for me. Then I remembered what my husband used to say: ‘Find a physician you trust and accept their judgment.’” Her husband of 58 years, a former obstetrician at Touro, had passed away a few months earlier. She took comfort in knowing she was at Touro, remembering him talking with another physician about the great stroke program there.

Continuing care 

“Once I had the surgery, they want to get you up and exercising right away. I had six weeks of therapy: speech therapy, swallowing therapy, and physical and balance therapy,” Marilyn said. “My Physical Therapist Nona Sheridan helped me with my dizziness issues. She was a real dynamo.” In fact, Marilyn describes her whole care team and experience from start to finish as “wonderful.” Through every phase of her treatment, from the Emergency Department to surgery to physical therapy, she feels she landed in the right place and got the right care. “I never realized that I was feeling bad until I wasn’t. No more stuffiness in the head and no more double vision,” Marilyn said. “I am very much a cheerleader for Touro.”

Emergency stroke care at Touro

As a Joint Commission Certified Primary Stroke Center, it is our mission to provide the best possible chance of survival and reduction of disability after acute stroke. For more information about the Touro Stroke Program, go to