With a stroke, time is of the essence
A stroke is no joke. It can happen at any moment and without warning, sometimes with disastrous effects. How can anyone be prepared?
In late September, Tim Roecker, a native of Morton, Ill., found himself at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, in Normal, Ill. He initially came to Normal to lead a Bible study at Illinois State University.
A few minutes into his study, Roecker noticed that he was starting to mispronounce words and that they sounded funny to him. Shortly after, the left side of his mouth started drooping, causing alarm for his wife, who told others to call for an ambulance. His daughter, a physical therapist, urged one of her nurse colleagues to help him.
It was a stroke, and Roecker was soon on his way to BroMenn Medical Center via ambulance. “I don’t really remember a whole lot, but I could not feel my left side; it had lost strength,” says Roecker.
Kristin Peterson, RN, MSN, stroke coordinator at BroMenn Medical Center, says that stroke symptoms can be remembered using “F.A.S.T.” – Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties, and Time is of the essence.
There are multiple factors that can increase the risk of stroke. “Hypertension, high cholesterol, coagulopathy (an abnormality in the blood’s clotting process), migraines with aura, diabetes, and sleep apnea are a few,” explains Victoria Steinkoenig, an Advocate advanced practice nurse specializing in inpatient neuro care at BroMenn Medical Center. “While eighty percent of strokes are preventable, there are non-modifiable risk factors such as age, gender, and ethnicity.”
Roecker had a history of atrial fibrillation (afib). Afib is when the heart beats erratically, potentially leading to blood clots, stroke, heart failure, and other heart-related complications. “Those who have atrial fibrillation are at risk for a stroke, even with adequate therapy,” Steinkoenig explains. “If you feel that something is off, get evaluated.”
“Typically, the goal is to make sure the stroke patient receives tPA within 60 minutes from the time they arrive at the hospital,” says Peterson. “In Tim Roecker’s case, he was able to receive it in 28 minutes, far exceeding that goal.”
The use of tPA alone to treat stroke has shown great benefit to many patients; however, new studies show an increased chance of recovery when tPA is used in conjunction with the clot retrieval procedure for eligible patients. Roecker’s clot was received by Dr. Ajeet Gordhan, a neurointerventional radiologist, via an artery in Roecker’s groin.
Roecker spent about five days at BroMenn, recovering under the care of neurologist Dr. Sunil Chauhan and neurology resident Dr. Catherine Lockhart. “Everyone from housekeeping to the doctors was wonderful. I was really impressed with them,” says Roecker. “Nurse Peterson did a lot to calm myself and my wife with everything.”
Just a short few weeks later, Roecker has made an almost 100 percent recovery. There are little things that he’s noticed since his stroke. When walking, more weight shifts to the left side, interrupting his gait. He has also noticed that his abstract thinking is not as quick with reading and meditation. But there are no problems with his speech.
Both Peterson and Steinkoenig stress that the best course of action when you suspect someone is having a stroke is to call 911 immediately. Two million brain cells die for every minute of oxygen deprivation, so every second counts.
“Mr. Roecker came in with severe left-sided deficits, and with swift stroke treatment, we were able to recover strength to his left side,” says Steinkoenig. “The brain tissue was salvaged, and there was no lasting disability.”
With such a positive outcome, Tim Roecker says he is almost thankful he had the stroke. “It made me appreciate the gravity of life and evaluate a lot of different things from that standpoint. With the gravity of life comes appreciating people, your family, and those around you.”
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