NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – There’s a major change to New York City’s EMS system that should dramatically improve the chance of surviving a major stroke.

Stroke victims must now be taken to certified stroke centers that can retrieve a blood clot from the brain.

CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez reports it is a major advance in stroke therapy.

For years, the only treatment for a stroke was a clot busting drug that dissolved a blood clot.

That causes about 85 percent of strokes.

Then doctors developed a way to go in and grab the clot. Now, even better, they can actually suck it out.

Because of the tragic death of actor Luke Perry from a massive stroke at age 52, and the near fatal stroke of “Game Of Thrones” actress Emilia Clarke at just age 23, the public now realizes that strokes don’t just affect the elderly. They can strike anyone, like 53-year-old Luz Cruz.

“My aunt noticed my speech was slurred and then my leg was dragging,” Cruz said.

Luz had a large blood clot in a major brain artery, which Mt. Sinai’s Dr. J. Mocco pointed out on her angiogram.

Luz Cruz’s blood clot in her brain. (Credit: CBS2)

“There should be arteries giving blood to this whole area, which you can see is white. There’s nothing there,” he explained.

That lack of blood to major brain areas meant almost certain permanent disability and possibly death.

But Luz’s aunt recognized the signs of a stroke right away and called 911, which, according to new EMS protocols, evaluates a patient for possible stroke and transports them to one of 19 certified stroke centers in New York.

Luckily for Luz, she was part of a clinical trial for a study comparing conventional stroke clot-grabbers with clot aspiration.

“Suck the clot out. Take it out as one big piece and take it out of the head,” Dr. J Mocco explained.

A long, thin catheter is threaded up into the brain, right into the artery that’s blocked by a blood clot. Then suction is applied through the tube, grabbing the clot and literally sucking it out of the artery, opening it up and restoring blood to the brain.

New procedure sucks out the blood clot from a patient’s brain. (Credit: Penumbra)

After the procedure, the angiogram showed her blood vessels full in the previously empty brain area.

“This is one of the most powerful medical therapies ever,” Dr. J Mocco said.

Luz knows she owes her remarkable recovery to the new technique, and her aunt.

If she hadn’t been there, “I wouldn’t be here,” she said.

The clot aspiration technique is faster, easier and much cheaper than previous methods, a win-win for patients and the health system.

Plus, unlike clot busting drugs which to be given within a few hours of a stroke, this could work even 24 hours later.