Hospital Takes Steps To Speed Stroke Treatment

From the American Stroke Association:

THINK YOU ARE HAVING A STROKE? CALL 9-1-1 IMMEDIATELY!

F.A.S.T. is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke. When you can spot the signs, you'll know that you need to call 9-1-1 for help right away. F.A.S.T. is:

F.A.S.T. Letter F Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile. Is the person's smile uneven?
F.A.S.T. Letter A Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
F.A.S.T. Letter S Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like "The sky is blue." Is the sentence repeated correctly?
F.A.S.T. Letter T Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you'll know when the first symptoms appeared.

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - During a stroke, each second longer it takes to get treatment is more damage done and fewer treatment options available.

Dr. Michelle Schierling knows how devastating it can be when a person delays getting treatment for a stroke. It claimed her grandmother's life. Schierling says her grandmother didn't want to bother anyone during the night, so she waited until morning to go to the hospital and, by then, it was too late.

It's a primary reason why Schierling is more than passionate about the steps her workplace, Stormont -Vail HealthCare in Topeka, has taken to become a certified stroke center by the Joint Commission. Schierling is the medial director for Stormont's Trauma Center.

Schierling says new stroke protocol covers the process from the moment a patient is picked up by emergency medical services until they are admitted to the hospital for care.

Most strokes are caused by a blockage of blood to the brain. The longer the brain is deprived of the oxygen that's in the blood, the more damage that may be done. The drug TPA can break up those clots, but it must be given within four and a half hours of the onset of symptoms. To make that happen, the first step is for patients to call 911 so the ambulance crew can get the ball rolling.

When that happens, Schierling says, the stroke response team can be standing by when the ambulance pulls up to the ER doors. Once a patient is identified as potentially having a stroke, lab techs emerge at the bedside, CT scan workers come in, a specialized nurse does an assessment and priority is put on getting all results back quickly. The goal, she says, is to take no more than 60 minutes from the time a patient comes in the door until they get the drug, if the patient is a candidate for it.

The goal can't be met, though, if patients don't recognize the symptoms. An easy say to remember them is the acronym F.A.S.T. - if the face droops, arms are numb or weak or speech become slurred, it's time to call 911.

Schierling says once brain is lost, it's lost forever. She says stroke is a major cause of permanent disabilty. Those who survive are often left with varying degrees of difficulty in talking, walking, movement, swallowing and more.

Since implementing new procedures three years ago, Stormont has tripled the number of patients receiving TPA.

The Joint Commission also lists Topeka's St. Francis Health Center and Lawrence Memorial Hospital as certified primary stroke centers.


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