Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. Every four minutes, someone dies of a stroke.
But the chances of surviving a stroke – and having better long-term outcomes – are much greater when treatment begins quickly. The sooner a stroke is treated, the less brain damage a person will sustain.
“Time is brain,” said Samantha Lozos, BSN, RN, CEN, trauma/stroke nurse coordinator at Columbus Community Hospital. “It’s so important to get here when those symptoms start, because the longer you wait, the more chance you have to lose certain brain functions.”
That’s why CCH stroke experts are urging local residents to seek emergency medical treatment at the first signs of stroke.
The most common signs of stroke are:
• Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
• Trouble seeing out of one or both eyes, blurred or double vision
• Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
• Loss of balance or coordination, trouble walking or dizziness
• A severe headache of unknown cause
Even if these symptoms are temporary and last only a few minutes, Lozos said people should not ignore them. Instead, they should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department immediately.
“If you have any kind of neurological deficit, whether that’s tingling or loss of sensation in one hand, one-sided extremity weakness or you think that your speech is a little garbled, you need to come to the ER,” she said. “Don’t wait to see if it will go away.”
Anyone can have a stroke, regardless of age and other risk factors. For example, Lozos said the United States has seen a steady increase in female stroke patients under the age of 40. These patients – thinking they are at little risk for stroke – connect their stroke symptoms to other causes and avoid getting the help they need when they need it.
“We see quite a few patients who want to think, ‘Oh, no, it’s probably just because of this.’ We have a lot of people come in and they have had visual disturbances and it’s been going on for a week or a month,” she said. “These are not signs to be ignored.”
If people are experiencing any of these symptoms, Lozos recommended they come into the emergency department right away. CCH’s emergency department stroke experts would rather patients come in, be examined and be told it’s not a stroke, rather than having people put off treatment. This is especially important because many stroke treatments are time sensitive. For example, a lifesaving, clot-busting medicine is most effective when given within three hours of a stroke.
Knowing the importance of time in stroke care, CCH is prepared to serve stroke patients as quickly as possible.
“When you come into our ER with a stroke, we have a whole stroke team that meets you at the bedside to make sure we are working as quickly as possible to have the best outcome for you,” Lozos said.
Patients who come to CCH with stroke symptoms receive a neurology consultation within three minutes of arriving, thanks to the hospital’s Telestroke program. This program allows CCH’s emergency medicine physicians to immediately connect and consult with expert Nebraska Medicine Telestroke neurologists through advanced videoconferencing technology. The neurologist can then view patients’ CT images in real time to determine if patients are stroke treatment candidates.
CCH also has 24-hour CT scan capabilities, MRI capabilities, and lab services available 24 hours a day, as well as respiratory therapists who respond to all the hospital’s stroke cases. Following a stroke, CCH’s team of physical, occupational and speech therapists can help patients through their recovery and stroke support groups are also available.
Though seeking medical treatment as soon as the symptoms of stroke appear is incredibly important, there is also a lot people can do to prevent strokes from happening in the first place.
“Stroke prevention doesn’t start after the stroke or after you’ve had these symptoms. It needs to start with healthy lifestyles,” Lozos said.
Those healthy lifestyles can start at CCH. The hospital offers many opportunities for people to improve their health and wellness through the Columbus Wellness Center, healthy lifestyle programs like the Complete Health Improvement Program, diabetes education and more.
To learn more about stroke prevention and care at CCH, contact Lozos at 402-562-3192.
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