When people experience stroke-like symptoms, time is of the essence. Strokes can damage the body quickly when people do not seek immediate medical care. However, hospitals can help reduce stroke patients’ long-lasting effects by enacting a fast-acting treatment plan. In 2019, Sarah Bush Lincoln earned that designation known as the Acute Stroke-Ready certification from the Illinois Department of Public Health.
Being an Acute Stroke-Ready hospital means that SBL staff communicates with emergency medical services to identify patients who are potentially having a stroke. These patients will receive the best care possible with all resources coordinated and readily available. Neurologist Fatima Alao, MD, explained that within three to four hours from the beginning of stroke symptoms, Sarah Bush Lincoln can treat the veins to disseminate clots.
“This means we are ready for anyone experiencing a stroke that come our way. We want people to come in as soon as they have neurological deficits or symptoms to reduce the chance of long-term effects,” Dr. Alao urged.
To determine if it is a stroke, a CT scan of the brain is performed and lab work completed quickly. The results are provided within 45 minutes. In the event it is a stroke, medical staff may administer tPA, a drug that dissolves blood clots, within 60 minutes of the beginning of stroke symptoms to minimize any lasting effects.
Dr. Alao explained that stroke symptoms can occur anywhere on the body from the arm to the head to the leg. Some people fall and feel confused, while others have severe headaches and weakness in the arms and legs. People can also lose their vision accrediting the problem in their eyes, but it could be their brain instead.
“The most common thing I hear from my stroke patients is ‘I am going to wait until my symptoms get worse to go to the hospital.’ You should absolutely not wait once symptoms occur,” Dr. Alao stressed.
Stroke symptom awareness is key in proactive medical care. Once people know what could constitute a stroke, they can seek medical attention quicker.
“I don’t want to do secondary stroke prevention if we can do primary stroke prevention,” Dr. Alao said.
Risk factors for strokes include people with high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. However, a healthy diet and daily, moderate exercise can greatly reduce a person’s chances of having a stroke. If you don’t have exercise equipment at home, Dr. Alao recommends using two cans of corn or water bottles as weights during television commercials. Adapting exercise to your lifestyle helps with consistency.
Sarah Bush Lincoln patients may also get a doctor’s referral to join the medical exercise program through the Center for Healthy Living. Participants receive a custom-designed exercise and lifestyle program to help them achieve their goals and manage chronic illnesses.
Dr. Alao said her patients range in age, but she has seen stroke patients as young as 50 years old, if they have a health problem that increases their risk of having a stroke.
“I see people with strokes every day. It’s more frequent than people think,” Dr. Alao said. “People will come here with significant symptoms such as having weakness or immobility on one side or an inability to talk, and they receive our treatment, and the symptoms go away. It’s amazing to see patients get better, but we want to see it more often.”
Dr. Alao encourages people to call 911 for an ambulance when possible symptoms of a stroke occur, so the assessment can begin immediately.