Welcome back to the Conemaugh Connection. We’re here at the East Kentucky Science Center where Evergreen Exhibitions in presenting Brain: The World Inside your Head in partnership with Pfizer and the National Institutes of Health.
The brain requires a constant flow of blood to work properly. If blood flow is disrupted, brain cells do not receive enough oxygen resulting in cell death.
Doctors who treat brain attack or stroke say “Time is Brain” … and they want you to know the warning signs.
Fortunately it was the 4th of July … Any other day and Jackie Yeager would have been at work. Because it was a holiday she was home, paying bills in the kitchen.
Jackie “ I was sitting at the counter there, writing out bills and that to mail the next day, and he came in from outside and he just stood there and I asked him if he was okay and he said I don’t think so.”
Charles “I was cleaning out my truck. We had just come back from camping and I was vacuuming the truck out and I just felt funny. I don’t know I just felt goofy. I walked down the sidewalk and staggered a bit as I came in.”
Charles Brewer was having a stroke. Early on he was still able to talk and walk. That would change. But his initial symptoms were far less remarkable.
Jackie “He just stood there and looked like he didn’t know what I was doing, you know, like he was lost or something.”
Fortunately for Charles, Jackie recognized the early warning signs of a stroke and took immediate action, driving him to a nearby ambulance station.
“It was hard for him to even get out of the car by the time I got there and they just checked him and everything. They started to the hospital with him but then they stopped down there in Cherry Tree and called Life Flight in.”
In the short time it took for the helicopter to get to Memorial Medical Center, Charles’s condition had worsened.
Jackie “By the time we got to the hospital, his whole right side, he couldn’t move, couldn’t talk or anything.”
But despite the fact that his condition had deteriorated, Luck was still on Charles’s side. Because Jackie had recognized his symptoms and gotten help right away Charles met the criteria for TPA, a clot busting drug that must be given within a three hour window.
Dr. Joseph Clark “TPA is an actual inherent chemical in the body that has kind of been capture chemically and mass produced. It’s basically a tissue plasminogen activator. It’s a biochemical that actually breaks clot within our own system that we have on a day-to-day basis… 2:33:17 when we give it through the IV and basically the purpose of that is to break up clot that may have formed from either heart attack or stroke.”
Denise LeHew, Neuroscience Clinician “TPA dissolves a blood clot but we have three hours from the time the symptoms start until we can no longer give that medication and three hours sounds like a long time but until the patient or family recognizes at home what’s going on, they activate emergency medical services, get here to the emergency department and we need to get a scan and some basic testing, you are really fighting the clock.”
That three hour window is always on the minds of those caregivers waiting for stroke patients like Charles to arrive.
Stroke Alert – ETA 10 minutes
Denise “Because time is so key to treating these patients we wanted to optimize our opportunity to really get to people quickly and the best way to do that is look at what already has been successful and the trauma alerts work. It’s notified. It is paged overhead and the team knows immediately what their piece is… 3:08:30 “Immediately the laboratory knows to respond to the patient’s bedside. We have pre-established laboratory values that they know to draw… The CT scan – people know that they have a patient that needs to get scanned as quickly as possible. Neurology knows get down here as quickly as possible to help evaluate the patient.”
But sometimes by the time the patient gets to the hospital the window of opportunity is already gone and that is why doctors say it is so important for people to recognize the symptoms of stroke.
So what are the symptoms of stroke? What do you need to remember? The key is to think FAST.
F is for facial weakness – can the person smile? Has their mouth or eye drooped?
A is for Arm Weakness – ask the person to raise both arms
S is for Speech difficulty – can the person speak clearly and understand what you say?
And the T stands for time. Do not wait – call for help immediately
Dr. Clark “I think it hurts the families a little bit too, because they may not have realized or they thought well, we’ll just give it a little bit more time and see if it improves and when it doesn’t and they come in late and we have to kind of say that there’s nothing much we can do, you know, obviously it does impact the families and they do take it hard.”
A terrible headache and loss of vision can also be signs of stroke. While symptoms like that are dramatic, doctors say to keep in mind that sometimes the early symptoms can be subtle.
Dr. Clark “You know, just a little bit of the slurring of the words, a little bit of a facial droop, a little bit of weakness of an extremity, a hand, a lower leg or something like that.”
Every 45 seconds someone has a stroke in the United States. Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the top cause of adult disability. Ad doctors say these numbers are on the rise .
The best way to treat a stroke is to prevent it. That’s why it is also important to know the risk factors for stroke…which go hand in hand with the risk factors for heart disease.
Denise “So managing blood pressure; make sure that patients have their blood pressure in a normal range. If someone is diabetic; that they take care of their blood sugar. They take their medicine as they should and keep that level where it should be 03:11:04:00 Treating high cholesterol; cholesterol is the fatty build-up in arteries and it affects arteries in the brain as well as the heart and elsewhere in the body. Don’t smoke. Smoking actually takes blood vessels and constricts them so blood can’t get through as readily. All those things are important and can really help decrease your risk.”
So back to Charles Brewer, he was unable to walk, unable to talk but got to Memorial Medical Center in time for treatment with the clot buster TPA.
Charles “Well, I think it made all the difference in the world. Her getting me there on time, you know, in time and that tPA shot, it just did wonders because like my son in law said, within six to seven hours he said I was talking and moving my hands and legs and feet and everything like that. So it made a heck of a difference.”
To help you remember the warning signs of stroke, the Conemaugh Health System is giving away these magnets and pocket cards which list stroke warning signs and what to do. If you would like a free magnet simply go to www.conemaugh.org and click on the Conemaugh Connection button, or call our 24-hour Conemaugh Nurse Connection, toll-free at 1-800-587-5875.
Coming up … 23-years of life with epilepsy, sometimes up to 20 seizures a day. Would surgeons at Memorial Medical Center be able to cure this young woman? That answer straight ahead.