This past Memorial Day weekend, Eleanor Schweitzer called out for her daughter June from their living room. Having recently watched a television program about stroke symptoms, Eleanor knew immediately what was wrong. June also realized right away what was happening to her mother: the left side of Eleanors face had drooped down, she was having difficulty moving her arms and legs, and was unable to clearly communicate.
June quickly dialed 911, and almost immediately the Mansfield First Aid and Rescue Squad was at their door to transport Eleanor to the Hackettstown Regional Medical Centers Emergency Room.
Upon arriving in triage, the greeting nurse did a quick evaluation of Eleanor utilizing the Cincinnati FAST assessment scale (Face, Arm, Speech Test). In this test, any symptom of arm weakness, numbness, loss of speech and/or facial droop initiates the Stroke Emergency Procedure.
Eleanor was quickly brought into the exam room and assessed according to HR MCs stroke protocol, and whisked to the CAT scan department to check for stroke caused by a brain hemorrhage. HR MC doctors and nurses are trained to administer the clot busting drug TPA if the results of the CAT scan test are negative. TPA is the only FDA approved drug to counteract brain damage caused by stroke, and can only be given within the first three hours of stroke symptoms. Time is critical, as theres also only a one hour window to complete all the necessary tests to determine if the patient is a candidate for this therapy.
When it appeared that Eleanor would indeed be a candidate, a call went out to the nurse stroke coordinator. When I arrived, Eleanor was back from her tests and the doctor was speaking to her and her family about administering the TPA, said Karen Young, RN , Stroke Coordinator at HRMC.
Once consent was obtained, we began administration of this incredible brain saving drug. Eleanor was excited that she was a candidate for it, because she had heard about TPA on television.
Eleanor said: I knew if I had these symptoms, I had to go to the hospital immediately. And Karen was always there taking care of me. She came to see me in the Emergency Department, in ICU , and she was always checking up on me. Dr. Lynch and the emergency nurses were terrific in keeping me up to date on my progress and treatment.
Eleanor was admitted to HR MCs Intensive Care Unit for several days, and because she steadily improved, was discharged by the end of the week to a rehabilitation center in order to regain her strength. Much of Eleanors left side paralysis is gone; she is working on some fine motor weakness in her hand. Eleanor is among the very fortunate stroke survivors who are able to return home to her family. Stroke is a major disabler that affects over 780,000 people each year, and is the third leading cause of death among Americans.
Im doing so well, and Ive regained just about all of my mobility. The only thing I need to work on is better movement of the fingers on my left hand. My advice to someone experiencing stroke symptoms is obviously to get to an Emergency Department quickly so you can get the TPA drug right away. Dont try to be the doctor, just get there quick, said Eleanor.