Would you know what to do if you're having a stroke?
It's not a trick question. There is a right answer, because when you're having a stroke, part of the brain doesn't get enough oxygen and starts to die. So getting to just any hospital isn't nearly as critical as getting to the right hospital as quickly as possible.
The CAMC Stroke Center at General Hospital is the Charleston area's only Joint Commission-certified Primary Stroke Center, which means it is one of the bestequipped treatment centers for people suffering a stroke. CAMC has developed a comprehensive system for rapid diagnosis and treatment, which includes being equipped 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide brain imaging scans, having neurologists available to conduct patient evaluations and using clot-busting medications when appropriate.
"It's important for the community to know that they have a Primary Stroke Center when minutes matter," said Deb Rectenwald, CNRN, CAMC's stroke program coordinator.
Rectenwald stresses that calling 911 is the best way to ensure that you get the quickest and most appropriate medical care for stroke because EMTs are trained to detect strokes in the field and get patients to the right treatment center.
"Many people are driven to emergency rooms by loved ones who may not realize the hospital they chose does not have a comprehensive stroke program, which can delay specialized care," Rectenwald said.
Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of death in the United States, and it can strike quickly and quietly.
"Often the effects of a stroke can prevent you from realizing that something is wrong because you may not recognize your own deficits," Rectenwald said. "You may not notice a weakness in your face or arm or that your speech is affected. A family member or someone close to you may see the differences in you when you don't see them yourself."
Other times people mistakenly wait for symptoms to go away.
"At first the symptoms may not seem like a big deal, but when they don't get better or progress to a profound weakness or difficulty speaking, you might realize something is wrong," Rectenwald said. "Calling 911 when symptoms begin provides a better chance of saving brain function."
CAMC's Stroke Center has earned the American Stroke Association's Get With The Guidelines – Stroke Gold Quality Achievement Award, which recognizes the hospital's commitment to treating patients according to nationally-accepted standards. Following Get With The Guidelines – Stroke treatment guidelines, patients are started on aggressive risk-reduction therapies including the use of medications such as tPA, antithrombotics and anticoagulation therapy, along with cholesterol-reducing drugs and smoking cessation counseling. These are all aimed at reducing death and disability and improving patients' lives after stroke.
Stroke patients at CAMC also have access to state's largest hospital-based rehabilitation program. CAMC's Medical Rehabilitation Center has earned the highest recognitions of quality granted to any rehabilitation facility in the country, including accreditation by The Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities as a Stroke Specialty Program. It is the only rehabilitation center in West Virginia and the region that has achieved this level of accreditation in stroke rehabilitation.
"On-site access to our stroke rehabilitation team ensures that recovery can begin while patients are still in the hospital," said Kenneth Wright, MD, medical director of the CAMC Medical Rehabilitation Center. "The goal for each patient is to reach the highest level of independence and return to their normal activities as soon as possible."
"Every facet of our program, from prevention, emergency care, inpatient treatment and rehabilitation, measures up to very high standards for health care safety and quality of care set by medical experts," Rectenwald said. "Bottom line: know the signs of stroke, and call 911 if you experience or see the symptoms in someone else."
CAMC General Hospital is located in downtown Charleston off the Leon Sullivan Way exit at 501 Morris St.
STROKE WARNING SIGNS
Act FAST and call 911 immediately at any sign of stroke: F = FACE: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop? A = ARMS: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward? S = SPEECH: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange? T = TIME: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.
NOTE THE TIME WHEN ANY SYMPTOMS FIRST APPEAR. If given within three hours of the first symptom, there is an FDA-approved clot-buster medication that may reduce long-term disability for the most common type of stroke. There are also two other types of stroke treatment available that might help reduce the effects of stroke. Source: National Stroke Association