According to the Centers for Disease Control, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, killing about 140,000 Americans each year. Emergency Department staff at Tomah Memorial Hospital is working to help reduce those numbers by urging patients to call 9-1-1 and seek treatment right away if they should experience symptoms of the condition.
“Our main goal is to get them (patients) to the CT (computerized tomography) scanner within 10 minutes of them being here,” said hospital stroke coordinator and emergency department registered nurse Jessica Powers, RN, BSN.
National data shows that patients who call 9-1-1 to report a stroke get to a CT scanner 35 minutes faster than those who walk into the emergency room on their own.
“Time is brain,” explained Powers, adding that time is of the essence in responding to and treating stroke victims.
Powers said emergency department staff works closely with area emergency medical services (EMS) like the Tomah ambulance department to enhance outcomes for stroke patients. “EMS is there initially doing the assessment and giving us the feedback right away on any possible symptoms of stroke, so we know this even before the patient comes in and we can prepare.”
Sometimes called a brain attack, a stroke is caused by a blocked blood vessel or bleeding in the brain. When the brain is starved of oxygen and nutrients, brain cells begin to die within minutes leading to partial paralysis or impaired motor function and, in some cases, death.
Powers said stroke symptoms can masquerade as everyday annoyances, like a bad headache.
She said people can more easily determine symptoms by remembering FAST; an acronym used to help detect and enhance responsiveness to stroke victim needs. The acronym stands for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time. “It is very important for them to come in and get treatment as soon they can,” added Powers.
Although many people think of stroke as a condition that affects only older adults, Powers said that strokes can and do occur in people of all ages. National figures quotes nearly a quarter of all strokes occur in people younger than age 65.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month, a time that Powers said is important to further educate the public about the signs and symptoms of stroke.
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