While many people can identify the symptoms of a heart attack: chest pain, shortness of breath, cold sweats, etc., far fewer may be able to identify the symptoms of a stroke. Knowing the warning signs can help with early recognition of symptoms and, therefore, early treatment. Jill Conner, administrative director of Neuroscience, Cerebrovascular, and Structural Heart Services at Community Healthcare System, emphasized how early identification is crucial.
“Whether the patient needs medical therapies like thrombolytics (clot busting drugs) or surgical therapies like thrombectomy (removal of a clot to restore blood flow), there is a common denominator – the patient has to get to the hospital as soon as stroke symptoms start to occur,” Conner said.
For this reason, Community Healthcare System seeks to increase public knowledge through awareness campaigns that close the stroke knowledge gap.
Keeping safety in mind amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, Community Healthcare System has developed methods to educate the community on virtual platforms. This includes a Virtual Support Group, which allows stroke patients across Community Healthcare System to meet on a monthly basis. It also includes the annual Stroke Awareness Fair on May 19. Through the Stroke Awareness Fair, “The Pathway of Stroke,” participants are able to learn how to lead healthy lifestyles and recognize symptoms of a stroke. A voucher for free health screenings will also be offered to virtual stroke fair participants.
To help the public remember the symptoms of a stroke, Community Healthcare System uses the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T.
B – Sudden loss of balance
E – Loss of vision in one or both eyes
F – Face looks uneven (drooping of the mouth or eyes on one side)
A – Arm or leg weakness on one side
S – Speech; slurred or trouble speaking
T – Time; time to act and call 911
While being readily able to identify these symptoms can help people take action to get the help they need, it is, of course, best to prevent the traumatic event in the first place. Lifestyle choices such as eating a healthy diet, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, and refraining from smoking, as well as controlling blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, can greatly lessen the risk of suffering from a stroke.
For individuals who do experience a stroke and need help, they can rest assured that Community Healthcare System hospitals are equipped with advanced technologies for the best outcomes. TeleStroke is utilized for virtual video assessment and consultation, and CT imaging can help to discern the best treatment for stroke patients. The use of a CT scanner allows medical professionals to determine whether a patient needs medical or surgical intervention.
“After viewing the images, they can make a quick determination for treatment,” Conner said. “This is very valuable in the facilitation of care. If a patient arrives at one of our Primary Stroke Centers with stroke symptoms, imaging is done and transmitted to the stroke neurologist through the application. It can be determined quickly if the patient needs to be rapidly transferred to the Comprehensive Stroke Center for advanced surgical therapy.”
Community Hospital, Munster, St. Catherine Hospital, East Chicago, and St. Mary Medical Center, Hobart, received certification as Primary Stroke Centers from the Joint Commission in 2010. At these hospitals within its system, Community Healthcare System is able to coordinate quality stroke and neuroscience care. In 2019, Community Hospital was named Northwest Indiana’s first Comprehensive Stroke Center.
“The Comprehensive Stroke Center and Primary Stroke Centers of Community Healthcare System are capable of caring for all stroke patients,” Conner said. “By using a standardized, evidence-based protocol, no matter if the patient is brought to our Comprehensive Stroke Center or one of our Primary Stroke Centers, we are able to deliver quality, consistent care in a timely fashion.”
Community Healthcare System’s virtual stroke fair from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 18 is FREE. Providers and staff will lead participants through the timeline of a stroke from the onset, to treatment, to rehabilitation. A limited number of FREE screenings are available, but registration is necessary to get a voucher. Register by calling 219-836-3477. A link to the presentation will be provided prior to the webinar.
For more information about stroke care and the virtual stroke support groups at Community Healthcare System, visit their website at www.comhs.org.