Speedy treatment critical for stroke patients

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ANDERSON, Ind. (AP) — David Turner was unconscious on a warehouse floor when his son found him.

"I felt odd," said Turner, 47, who works at Anderson's Carter Express Inc. "My head hurt and I wanted to lay down."

Then everything went black — punctuated with blurry flashes of paramedics, physicians and white hospital walls.

He was having a stroke.

A stroke — or "brain attack" — occurs when a blood vessel is blocked or ruptures, which keeps oxygen or nutrients from reaching a particular section of the brain.

"Within a few minutes of an obstruction, brain cells are injured and tissue begins to die in the affected area," said Lisa Hayes, a registered nurse at Community Hospital Anderson.

Hayes coordinates CHA's Primary Stroke Center — where Turner was taken — which uses a tag team of paramedics, physicians and other multi-disciplinary specialists to quickly diagnose, treat and educate about strokes. The result of a months-long effort, the Center is the only one in Madison County with advanced certification from the Joint Commission and the American Heart and American Stroke associations.

"I think what this is, is a commitment to giving stroke patients the best possible care," said neurologist Dr. Larry Blankenship, the program's medical director, "And doing it quickly enough that we can prevent some of the worst consequences."

According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States — a statistic that bothers Hayes.

"Everyone (at Community Hospital Anderson) said 'we needed to do something about this,'" Hayes told the Kokomo Tribune ( http://bit.ly/XpBnc5 ). "Time is of the essence, to decrease the risk of death and decrease the deficits of stroke."

That's why it's important to know the warning signs. Hayes uses the acronym F.A.S.T. — Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty and Time to call 911.

The sooner the hospital is notified, the sooner it can alert the stroke treatment team and determine if it should administer t-PA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator), which dissolves blood clots and can lessen the likelihood of death and disability in some cases.

When the stroke team is activated, it works much like the neuro-circuitry it works to save.

"The 911 call activates emergency response, transport and a whole series of other things," Hayes said. "It's intense. We all kind of converge on them (the patient)."

Turner remembers the blurred images of hospital personnel working silently, efficiently around him.

"They didn't talk to each other, but they all knew exactly what to do," he said. "They just took over. Amazing."

Turner walked away with a slightly weakened right side — a small price, compared to other possibilities.

"I cry when that happens," Hayes said. "When someone walks out of here — the reward is seeing them go home."

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Information from: The Herald Bulletin, http://www.theheraldbulletin.com

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