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World Stroke Day reminder: Time is of the essence

We often invoke sayings about the importance of time: time is of the essence, time flies, and time is money. When someone has a stroke, taking quick action can improve survival rates and outcomes, so it’s worth taking a little time to understand the warning signs and what to do when you or a loved one experience them.

A stroke occurs when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain is blocked or ruptures, causing brain cells to die. The American Stroke Association lists several symptoms to know, including sudden experience of numbness or weakness of face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body; confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding speech; trouble seeing in one or both eyes; trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination; and severe headache with no known cause.

To remember stroke symptoms, think of the acronym BE FAST, which stands for Balance, Eyes, Face, Arm, Speech, and Time. It’s easy to write off problems as temporary, and many people tend to take a “wait-and-see” attitude toward symptoms. But seconds and minutes count, and healthcare providers have better options now than in the past to help minimize the damage from a stroke.

“Prompt recognition and evaluation is the most important aspect of stroke care. If a stroke is suspected, patients should immediately seek care at the closest emergency department,” said Dr. Marcus Weiser, Family Medicine Physician and Stroke Program Medical Director at Community HealthCare System.

Acting quickly when someone has a stroke can drastically affect quality of life later.

“Time is brain, and minutes matter since earlier treatment has a significant impact on neurological outcomes,” Dr. Weiser said.

One treatment option is administration of alteplase, an intravenous medication that can help break down clots blocking blood flow to the brain. Another option is rapid referral of patients for a procedure to remove clots.

Mindy Olberding, chief nursing officer at Community HealthCare System, said stroke mortality tends to be high in northeast Kansas, but efforts from the Kansas Initiative for Stroke Survival, or KISS, and the University of Kansas Health System Care Collaborative have made a positive impact. Olberding said education efforts for healthcare providers have helped, but public education is also key to further reducing deaths and severe, long-term disabilities in stroke patients. World Stroke Day, October 29, is a perfect time to review how to care for someone who is experiencing a stroke.

“The main takeaway is that if you react and call 911 to have your loved one brought to the Emergency Room, we can provide timely treatment. One success story we saw was a family calling 911, which made the difference between their loved one going home vs. requiring nursing home care,” Olberding said.

Olberding added that physical, occupational, and speech therapy can help stroke patients recover, but that faster initial treatment increases the possibility of successful therapy.

“Time really is of the essence in caring for stroke patients,” Olberding said.

KISS was established in 2011 to ensure that first responders and emergency care providers receive education and support to treat stroke. The organization provides Emergency Management Services personnel with screening, evaluation, and routing services to ensure the fastest and safest delivery of care, plus education and support for hospitals. Because of KISS’s success in educating hospitals and EMS, the focus has shifted to the community.

Olberding said that Community HealthCare System’s staff is ready to provide the rapid care necessary for stroke patients. Onaga Community Hospital is designated as an Emergent Stroke Ready Hospitals by KISS and is a is also a Level IV Trauma Center. Unfortunately, patients often come outside of the critical treatment window.

“We want to remind our communities to come quickly at the first sign of a stroke. There is so much we can do to help!” Olberding said.

Find stroke awareness information and handouts




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