Stroke Hits Close to Home

July 27th, 2018

It’s approximately 8:30 in the morning and you are finishing up breakfast with your wife at home in Benton. You try to ask her a question, but you can’t seem to find your words. You attempt to wave to get her attention, but you can’t move your right arm. You mumble a sound and she turns to look at you. Thankfully, she had just seen an advertisement about the signs and symptoms of stroke and recognizes that this is a medical emergency. Your wife of 58 years calls 9-1-1 and tells them she thinks you are having a Stroke. Within minutes, an ambulance arrives and the EMS team begins their initial work-up. They perform some tests and ask a few questions; now it’s time to go to the hospital.

While in the ambulance, you hear the paramedic call the local hospital and tell the staff they are bringing in a Stroke patient. Once you arrive, you know that this really is an emergency. Everyone in the Emergency Department is working vigilantly to provide prompt care. You are taken out of the department and quickly sent to Imaging to have a CT scan of your head. Once the doctor sees the scan, he quickly explains that because you came in as soon as your symptoms started, you qualify for a drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) which will hopefully break down the clot in your brain. You agree to the medication and the infusion is quickly started.

Meanwhile, the doctor consults with a neurologist from the SIH inpatient neurology team at Memorial Hospital of Carbondale via telemedicine – a technology allowing doctors and patients to “virtually” meet with specialists remotely. The neurologist recommends another type of CT scan that looks at the vessels in your head. This time the scan shows that one of your large vessels in the brain is occluded (blocked) by a blood clot. The Neurologist tells you that you need to go to a Comprehensive Stroke Center so they can do a thrombectomy. He explains that a thrombectomy is a surgical procedure that can retrieve the clot from your head and, hopefully, restore blood flow to your brain. Arrangements are made and the flight team quickly arrives. It seems like you are in the helicopter for just a short while before landing at BJC in St. Louis. The Comprehensive Stroke team is awaiting your arrival and as soon as you land they rush you down to the surgical suite.

You wake up and your wife is by your side. The doctor comes in and tells you that the procedure was successful and they were able to restore blood flow to your brain. You begin to talk and realize you are able to make out some words. You can feel your right arm and, although it is difficult, you are able to move it more than you could at home. The staff encourages you to rest because you will soon start your road to recovery. A case manager comes in to see you and she discusses rehabilitation options and helps you decide what would be best for you and your recovery. Being a southern Illinois native, you decide that the Acute Rehab Center at Herrin Hospital is ultimately the best fit for your needs. There, you will receive specialized stroke rehabilitation from a collaborative team of experts while remaining close to home with family and friends.

This hypothetical scenario is, sadly, all too real for many people in southern Illinois. Fortunately, the neurology team from the SIH Brain & Spine Institute and The Stroke Network of hospitals are ready and waiting when a stroke occurs. Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke F.A.S.T. so you or your loved ones have the best chance at a full recovery.

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!

The Stroke Network consists of eight hospitals throughout southern Illinois, working collaboratively with EMS services and SIH Brain & Spine Institute to provide the fastest, most comprehensive stroke care in the region.

Primary Stroke Centers:

Carbondale – Memorial Hospital of Carbondale
Herrin – Herrin Hospital

Network Hospitals:

Benton – Franklin Hospital
DuQuoin – Marshall Browning Hospital
Harrisburg – Harrisburg Medical Center
McLeansboro – Hamilton Memorial Hospital
Murphysboro – St. Joseph Memorial Hospital
Pinckneyville – Pinckneyville Community Hospital