Every Minute Counts With Stroke
Latifa Sharif was at the gym in her apartment building when she suffered an ischemic stroke. Like many people who have stroke symptoms, she didn’t know what was happening. She was on the treadmill and suddenly felt awful, but thought she was just tired from her workout.
“I went home and tried to drink water, but it wouldn’t go into my mouth,” she said. “The left side of my body was droopy. I had no idea I was having a stroke. I called my husband, and he came home; then he and my son took me to Washington Hospital.”
An ischemic stroke occurs when a blockage in one of the blood vessels obstructs the flow of blood to the brain. Fortunately for Sharif, Washington Hospital’s Stroke Program meets the highest quality standards for its treatment of stroke. Soon after entering the emergency room, the stroke team was activated and Sharif received the life-saving medication she needed to recover.
Washington Hospital's Stroke Program is a recipient of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's Get With The Guidelines® Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award and the Target Stroke Honor Roll Award. In order to be a Target Stroke hospital, Tissue Plasminogen Activator (TPA), known as "clot busting" medication, must be administered intravenously within 60 minutes of a patient’s arrival to the hospital at least 50 percent of the time.
Sharif received her medication in just under 60 minutes. She returned home to her family within five days of having the stroke and has completely recovered.
“I am grateful for the care I received,” said Sharif, who is 48. “Now I’m taking better care of my health, exercising more and cutting the salt and fat out of my diet. I’ve already lost 10 pounds, and I have my diabetes under control.”
It’s these types of lifestyle changes that can help reduce the risk of having a stroke, according to Doug Van Houten, RN, Assistant Chief Nursing Officer and Stroke Program Coordinator at Washington Hospital. High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, lack of exercise, smoking, and high cholesterol are all risk factors for stroke.
“Stroke can be deadly, but it is also preventable and treatable,” Van Houten added. “It can happen at any age. The key thing to remember is that every minute counts. Everyone needs education about stroke prevention, warning signs and the vital importance of seeking care as quickly as possible.”
“Just like in Sharif’s case, it is often the people around a stroke victim who see the warning signs,” he stated.
Van Houten suggested the acronym FAST as a way to recognize stroke symptoms and take action:
- Facial weakness, usually on one side
- Arm weakness
- Speech, meaning slurred speech or difficulty talking
- Time matters, so call 911
Once the patient arrives at the hospital, the stroke team must act quickly as well. TPA generally is not administered if more than four or five hours have passed since the stroke symptoms began, Van Houten explained. If the patient doesn’t come to the hospital immediately, precious time has already been lost.
“Effective stroke care requires a team of physicians, nurses, neurologists, radiologists, pharmacists, and other hospital staff to be at the top of their game,” he added. “We meet and exceed those high standards at Washington Hospital.”
Learn More About the Washington Hospital Stroke Program
Washington Hospital is a nationally recognized leader in stroke care. To learn more about the Stroke Program, visit www.whhs.com/stroke.