During a stroke – when the blood vessels that carry
oxygen to the brain suddenly rupture or are blocked
by a clot – parts of the brain begin to die almost
immediately. And while highly effective treatments exist that
can improve the odds you can survive a stroke and significantly
reduce the debilitating damage to your brain – they need to
be delivered quickly. That’s why recognizing the symptoms of
stroke, seeking immediate medical assistance, and when
possible, choosing a hospital that specializes in caring for
stroke patients are key.
Community Medical Center in Toms River is designated as
a Primary Stroke Center. That means patients entering the
Emergency Department with the symptoms of a stroke are
treated under their Rapid Stroke Assessment protocol in a
specialized area to diagnose, treat and care for stroke and heart
attack patients without delay.
“For patients suffering from acute stroke symptoms, rapid
assessment is critical,” explains Dr. Gerald Ferencz, a board
certified Neurologist and Medical Director of the Primary
Stroke Center at CMC. “Within the Center, patients receive
an immediate medical and nursing assessment and the on-call
neurologist is brought in,” explains Dr. Ferencz. “An
intravenous line is started, blood is drawn for lab work and
patients undergo a CT scan, and other imaging studies if
necessary – all within a matter of minutes.”
The goal is to quickly identify whether a stroke has
occurred and the type, so that appropriate treatment can be
administered – and in some cases, so that an imminent or
subsequent stroke can be averted.
- FACE: Does the face look uneven?
Ask them to smile
- ARM: Does one arm drift down?
Ask them to raise both arms
- SPEECH: Does their speech sound strange?
Ask them to repeat a phrase
- Time: Every second, brain cells die.
Call 9-1-1 at any sign of stroke!
“Patients experiencing Ischemic strokes can be given a clotbusting
medication called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA,
but it is critical that the medication be administered within the
first three hours of the onset of symptoms,” he adds. tPA has
shown to save brain function and reduce major stroke-related
disability in patients who receive it.
As part of CMC’s Primary Stroke Center, patients have
access to a higher level of follow-up care with a designated
neuroscience unit and specially trained nurses who foster
recuperation and rehabilitation. “The staff on this inpatient
stroke unit have a higher level of knowledge regarding stroke
care, its complications and treatment,” explains Dr. Ferencz. “They work together to make assessments and communicate
with the family at a level of significant knowledge to help
facilitate recovery,” he adds.
“Just ten years ago, people didn’t think there was much to
do for stroke, but all that has changed. The key is rapid
assessment and treatment – and the kind of treatment we’re
delivering here at Community Medical Center through the
Primary Stroke Center,” says Celina Holden, RN, BSN,
Community’s Stroke Center Coordinator. The Center
currently treats more stroke patients than any hospital in New
Jersey, some 1,000 patients in 2010.
In addition to prompt diagnosis and expert treatment,
prevention and stroke awareness are also key, according to
Holden. “Our efforts to increase the public’s awareness of the
signs and symptoms of stroke and the importance of seeking
prompt medical attention have made a significant difference
in the lives of our patients,” she adds. The staff holds regular
education and awareness programs to facilitate the early
recognition of stroke using the acronym FAST – which stands
for face, arms, speech and time.
“While symptoms of stroke can be vague and are different
for everyone, in general, any drooping of the facial muscles,
the inability to move your arms or to speak are key signs of
stroke and an indication to act fast. Call 911 and get to a
primary stroke center for care,” says Holden.
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