Speeding Stroke Treatment, Saving Lives

mobile-stroke-unit.jpegBy Rebecca Zobel, RN

I have been part of the Rush Stroke Program for a little more than three years, as the stroke nurse liaison at Rush Oak Park Hospital. So you can imagine my excitement when I learned Rush was going to have a mobile stroke treatment unit and that it was going to be headquartered in Oak Park, where I live and work.

With stroke, TIME = BRAIN, and with the Rush Mobile Stroke Unit, our goal is to decrease time to treatment and save that brain. I am proud to be one of the RNs working on the Rush Mobile Stroke Unit, and I am so excited about the opportunity it provides to our community and the suburbs surrounding Oak Park. The technology and medications we have on board allow us to literally bring the emergency department to the patient, and to initiate​ diagnosis and time-sensitive treatment for stroke at the patient’s location.

The first patient I helped care for reminded me just how important it is to recognize and treat stroke symptoms early, and how lucky we are to have this resource available to help us improve patients’ chances of a good recovery.

The Rush Mobile Stroke Unit was notified by one of our partner fire departments that they had received a 911 call for a patient with stroke-like symptoms (facial droop, arm and leg weakness, speech difficulty). Once dispatched, we were able to reach the patient and begin the diagnostic process at their location in less than 10 minutes.

Remote diagnosis, treatment

On board the Rush MSU, we have the capability to perform a CT scan of the brain, run lab tests and connect with a neurologist at Rush University Medical Center, who can then perform a full neurological exam from a remote location using telemedicine.

Once diagnostics are completed, treatment may begin by administering a powerful clot-buster, IV TPA, for suspected ischemic stroke, or by providing additional medication options for hemorrhagic stroke. The patient is immediately transported to the nearest, most appropriate facility, either a certified primary stroke center or comprehensive stroke center.

The time saved in providing initial treatment with IV TPA for patients having an ischemic stroke, and/or in transporting stroke patients who need to reach a comprehensive stroke center for more definitive treatment, can mean the difference between walking out of the hospital or managing a lifetime of disability.

I believe we are very fortunate to have this state-of-the-art technology and treatment option available in our communities, and I look forward to providing proven stroke care to patients in a new and innovative environment.

Remember four letters and three numbers to know what to do for signs and symptoms of stroke: FAST 9-1-1. F = facial droop, A = arm weakness, S = speech difficulty, T = time to call 911!

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