Saved by swift stroke care

Minutes matter when treating patients suffering from a possible stroke, so it’s good to know that UHS facilities have the advanced technology and medical staff to diagnose and treat strokes quickly.

Did you know?

May is National Stroke Awareness Month. According to the American Stroke Association, someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds. Stroke is a leading cause of long-term disability and the leading preventable cause of disability.

The journey of a stroke patient through a network of clinicians is highly complex and filled with time-sensitive decisions. To help provide optimal care delivery, UHS has implemented the Stroke Clinical Care Pathway, a comprehensive solution that uses evidence-based medicine to determine the appropriate interventions. “This approach delivers the concerted multilevel coordination of care required to help ensure that quality stroke care is provided to our patients,” says Paul Stefanacci, Vice President of Quality and Chief Medical Officer at UHS. “The commitment to excellence in stroke care is a high priority at UHS.”

This commitment is exemplified by the 21 UHS acute care hospitals that have been certified by the Joint Commission as either Comprehensive or Primary Stroke Centers. The Joint Commission Gold Seal of Approval® is a symbol of quality that reflects UHS’ dedication to providing safe and effective patient care.

Swift stroke care in action

One such primary stroke center is Northwest Texas Healthcare System in Amarillo, Texas. Emergency room doctor and U.S. Army Reserve Captain Shad Newson, MD, was getting ready for his shift at Coon Memorial Hospital in Dalhart, Texas, when he noticed something was wrong. “I’d gone in late the night before to check on a patient and went to sleep in an on-call room to rest before my shift,” he explains. “I woke up and started to feel some unusual sensations in my face. I looked in the mirror and I had some facial droop,” he says.

Shad Newson with wife and daughterHe recognized the symptoms of a possible stroke immediately and knew he needed to get help right away. He struggled down the hall to the nurses’ station where the team jumped into action. In an hour, the results of a CT scan confirmed that he had a blood clot obstructing blood flow to his brain.

Next, he was looking into the eyes of a neurologist from Montana — through the screen of a telemedicine robot. This robotic equipment is provided to Coon Memorial Hospital through Northwest’s telestroke program to give patients in the rural community access to advanced care within minutes of a possible stroke. It enables neurologists to assess patients remotely and make recommendations about treatment.

Based on the assessment, Dr. Newson was treated with tPA, a medication to help dissolve his blood clot. As the drug was being administered, he was transferred to Northwest. He was able to leave the hospital after 24 hours of being monitored.

Dr. Newson has since joined Northwest as an emergency room physician. About one year after his stroke, he competed in a marathon. “You never expect it if you’re young and healthy,” says Dr. Newson, who is just 41 years old and had no indications of health problems before his stroke.

Recognizing the symptoms quickly and getting rapid care saved his life. “The motto is, time matters, and it’s better to get help sooner than later,” he says.

Learn more about Northwest’s Joint Commission-certified Primary Stroke Center →

Back to her busy life thanks to swift action and advanced medical care

Jessica Serrano left work early one day last May to take her daughter to an appointment. She was filling out paperwork, and her right arm felt heavy. “I tried to raise my hand and it kept falling,” she says. “My daughter noticed my mouth was tilted to the side and I was talking funny. The moment I stood up to get help, I collapsed.”

Paramedics took her to Wellington Regional Medical Center’s Comprehensive Stroke Center. When she arrived, neurointerventionalist Juan Gomez, MD, explained that she had a stroke and needed surgery right away.

Dr. Gomez performed a minimally invasive procedure, called a thrombectomy, to remove blood clots from the right side of her brain. The procedure involved making a small incision in the groin and feeding a catheter up through the artery to the site of the clot. A retrieval device was then passed through the catheter and used to pull the clot out and restore blood flow to the brain.

“It was a shock,” says Jessica of having a stroke at just 24 years old. “I would have been paralyzed on my left side if I didn’t get treatment when I did.”

“Some people think stroke is an older person’s disease, but it isn’t,” says Alice Cruikshank, RN, MSN, CNRN, stroke program coordinator at Wellington Regional Medical Center. “It doesn’t discriminate against age.” It’s important for people to recognize the warning signs and call 911 right away if they think they may be having a possible stroke.

Jessica is now back to her usual routine and spends as much time as she can with her family. “It was like a new beginning for me,” she says. “It’s a miracle that I’m back to normal.”

Learn more about Wellington’s Comprehensive Stroke Center →

Do you know the symptoms of a possible stroke?

Recognizing the symptoms can help save your life or someone else’s.