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When strokes strike, quick action can prevent disabilities

Published: Thursday, May 9 2013 5:20 p.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Identifying and treating a stroke quickly can prevent a lifetime of disability.

Kelly Anderson, whose grandfather died of a stroke, said the time she spent working in the neurological intensive care unit opened her eyes to the necessity of quick response with strokes. About half the people who came in went home with a permanent disability. She said some of these disabilities could have been prevented.

Anderson, a nurse and coordinator of the Intermountain Medical Center Stroke Program, and Dr. Gregory Call, a neurologist in the program, will be featured on Saturday's Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline, where they will take questions about the topic "Stroke: What you need to know to save a life." Anyone interested is welcome to call 1-800-925-8177 from 10 a.m. until noon.

Those who suffer strokes lose 32,000 brain cells each second, so quick action is vital, Anderson said.

When a patient arrives at the hospital with a suspected stroke, a team breaks out into what Anderson calls "organized chaos," to diagnose the type of stroke and appropriate treatment.

There are two types of strokes. The most common are ischemic strokes, where a blood vessel in the brain is blocked by a blood clot. This type of stroke can be treated most effectively within three hours of when symptoms first appeared. The patient can receive a drug known as tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA to break up the clot.

"I've seen people get better in minutes," Anderson said of the tPA treatment.

The second type of stroke, hemorrhagic, is when a blood vessel in the brain bursts or leaks. This type is less common and can be treated by other medication or surgery.

More than 800,000 people die per year from cardiovascular diseases and strokes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most people Anderson has come across are unaware of the warning signs.

Between community health fairs and media campaigns, Anderson is working to educate the public on signs of strokes. She attended 20 community health fairs last summer where she gave the public information on signs of a stroke and the importance of quick action and treatment.

Intermountain Healthcare created BE FAST, from an existing stroke mnemonic, to help people recognize stroke symptoms, which include:

Balance or coordination

Eyes (vision)

Face sudden facial weakness; or an

Arm or leg

Speech, difficulty speaking

Time — when symptoms began

Anderson said those who see these symptoms should seek emergency treatment immediately.

"When you notice that first symptom that you think might be a stroke, call 911," she said.

Hotline Saturday

The May Deseret News/Intermountain Healthcare Hotline focuses on strokes. From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Kelly Anderson, a nurse and coordinator of the Intermountain Medical Center Stroke Program, and Dr. Gregory Call, a neurologist in the program, will answer questions from the public. Anyone with questions can call 800-925-8177.

Email: wevans@deseretnews.com

Twitter: whitevs7

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