About 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Now a local hospital is prepared to help area residents who fall victim to a stroke survive.
Northern Hospital of Surry County recently earned an advanced certification as a Primary Stroke Center from the Joint Commission and the American Heart Association.
Hospital spokesperson Ashly Lancaster described the hospital’s newly attained accreditation as “big news for our hospital and community.” She indicated treating strokes successfully has much to do with speed, and Northern Hospital’s program brings care to a stroke victim in an expeditious manner.
Lancaster said the team that earned the certification, which includes representatives from all 17 hospital departments and Surry County EMS, worked hard to attain the “milestone.”
“We have a dedicated Stroke Response Team,” explained Karen Hagan, director of emergency services. “If someone arrives with acute stroke symptoms, we call a hospital-wide ‘Code Stroke’ and at minimum of an 8-person team responds immediately to the Emergency Department or to the inpatient’s room.”
A person who is showing signs of a stroke is immediately evaluated upon his or her arrival at the hospital, according to Hagan. If it’s appropriate, hospital staff will then administer “a lifesaver” called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the only treatment for an ischemic stroke approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In short, tPA works by dissolving the blood clot that is blocking blood flow to the brain, the most common cause of a stroke (the other is a ruptured blood vessel). According to Hagan, if tPA is administered within three hours — and sometimes four and a half hours — it can improve a person’s chances of recovering from a stroke.
The timeline for the treatment is what makes early identification and treatment of a stroke so important in improving a person’s chances for survival and a subsequent recovery, said Hagan.
Strokes kill more than 130,000 Americans each year, according to the CDC.
Hagan, who also serves as the stroke team’s assistant coordinator, said Northern Hospital sees its fair share of stroke victims. From March of last year, when the hospital first implemented its “Code Stroke” team, through December the hospital treated more than 100 acute stroke patients.
Northern Hospital has also set out on a rigorous community education program to better equip members of the public to identify stroke signs and symptoms. Hagan said the hospital uses the acronym FAST to help folks remember the symptoms.
People should immediately call 911 if the experience facial numbness or asymmetry (such as the mouth drooping on one side), arm weakness or numbness, or issues with speech such as slurring words. Hagan said the “T” ends the acronym to remind folks that time is of the essence when treating a stroke.
Hagan said hospital staff will be at a number of community events in order to foster stroke awareness and educate folks who could become the victim of a stroke. Staff also perform screenings such as blood pressure readings.
Andy is a staff writer for the News and can be reached at 415-4698.