The right call to make if you suspect a stroke: 911

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SARA NESTOR, RN, at Clark Fork Valley Hospital is pictured calling a telestroke specialist. (Photo courtesy of Clark Fork Valley Hospital)

The lasting effects of a stroke can be very different depending on how fast a patient receives treatment. Advances in treatment are helping more people survive stroke without serious disability. But these treatments are only used in a narrow window of time four and a half hours after the known start of symptoms.

During February and March, Sanders County residents will hear about the signs of stroke and the need for urgent medical care. Clark Fork Valley Hospital and other local providers are offering stroke education in partnership with the Cardiovascular Health Program of the Department of Public Health and Human Services.

“The first thing to know about stroke is how to recognize it when it’s happening,” says Danita Grossberg, RN, Acute Care Nursing Manager at Clark Fork Valley Hospital. “Know the signs, and if you even suspect it’s a stroke, do not delay! Call 911 immediately.”

Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted. During a stroke, about 2 million brain cells die every minute. The loss of these neurons can affect speech, memory, muscle control, vision, thought processes, and emotions. Common signs of stroke are loss of balance, blurred vision in one or both eyes, the face drooping on one side, arm or leg weakness on one side, and speech difficulty. The person having a stroke may also have a sudden severe headache and problems with memory.

“Making the right call is critical when you see a stroke,” says Dr. Ron Black, emergency physician at Clark Fork Valley Hospital.

Care starts sooner for stroke patients when 9-1-1 dispatch is contacted. A call to 911 mobilizes first responders in Plains, Hot Springs or Thompson Falls.

TELESTROKE IS in place to support the neurological assessment and diagnosis of stroke at Clark Fork Valley Hospital. CFVH is connected to the telestroke program at Kalispell Regional Medical Center (KRMC). A stroke “robot” connects a distant neurologist at KRMC with a patient and provider in Plains through a secure audiovisual link. Eligible patients can get treated much faster than if they were transported to the larger hospital.

“This technology allows us to offer our patients the attention of specialists highly experienced in recognizing and treating stroke,” Grossberg explains.

The telestroke program protocols also help a responding team of care providers make decisions quickly. With stroke, minutes matter.

“Every stroke is different, and so is every patient,” Grossberg said. “The initial assessment determines whether the patient can receive a clot-dissolving drug, which we can administer here. The team will also determine if the patient should be transported to a larger facility. The call to 9-1-1 puts it all in motion.”

To learn more about stroke, DPHHS suggests Montanans talk to their health care provider. The website is also a great resource, or look for @MTStroke on Facebook.

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