The vital call for best possible stroke outcome


WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) – Each year nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke. It’s considered the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the U.S.

As we learned with the recent deaths of 52-year-old actor Luke Perry and 51-year-old movie director John Singleton, strokes can happen at any age.

We hear a lot about being aware of the symptoms of having a stroke but as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter and stroke survivor Mark Hiller explains, it’s also important to avoid a critical mistake: driving yourself to seek medical care.  

It was only a demonstration outside Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, but what paramedics were driving home is the key role they play in stroke survival. Commonwealth Health Director of EMS Operations & Emergency Preparedness Austin Schrader said, “Strokes above all other medical emergencies that we treat are especially time sensitive.”

Each second of an untreated stroke, 32,000 neurons or brain cells die. That’s nearly two million each minute. Immediate intervention is a must. Mr. Schrader said, “It can literally mean the difference between a good, quality of life and a very poor prognosis.”

By using assessment tools and diagnostics on board the ambulance, paramedics can help control a patient’s blood pressure, administer oxygen or establish an IV line. While en route, Mr. Schrader said another vital function is performed. “We can call ahead to the hospital and they’re prepared for us. We go directly to the CT scanner.” Morgan Boyer, RN who is Commonwealth Health Market Clinical Project Manager for Neuroscience added, “That’s the first piece of clinical information that we need.”

While getting that brain scan information will take several minutes, the ambulance crew is delivering other vital information without delay. “We’re also getting a report at the same time from our EMS provider and every bit of information that they can provide is imperative for us in making those right clinical treatment decisions,” said Ms. Boyer.

If it’s an ischemic or clot induced stroke, clot-induced medication called tPA, is administered but the medication needs to be warmed up; another reason that ambulance call ahead is so critical when time equals brain. Ms. Boyer said, “It gives us increased preparation and it makes sure that you go to the facility that is prepared to handle you for stroke.”

Commonwealth Health is recognized as a certified Joint Commission Primary Stroke Center. In short, their stroke care team has specialized training to treat all types of stroke faster than non-certified medical facilities.     

When it comes to stroke symptoms think of the acronym BEFAST.
B is for balance. Are you leaning to one side or staggering?
E is for Eyes. Do you have a sudden loss of vision, blurred vision, or double vision?
F is for Face. Do you have a facial droop or an uneven smile?
A is for Arms. Do you have arm weakness or numbness?
S is for Speech. Do you have slurred or garbled speech?
T is Time to call 911. Time equals brain when it comes to a stroke.

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