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Dr. Bill's Commentaries

Stroke of luck   (February 14, 2010)

I'm a believer now. Until this past Saturday, I honestly didn't think that the standard advice for stroke patients to get treated with the "clot-buster" drug would ever be feasible. Why? Because the drug (Tissue Plasminogen Activator or "tPA") must be given within three hours of the stroke. What would be the odds that:

* the stroke would happen and be recognized promptly as being a stroke, and
* there would be a hospital nearby, and the stroke patient would be rapidly transported there (presumably usually by an ambulance, with the inevitable delays of getting the ambulance to the patient then getting the patient to the hospital), and
* the hospital would have medical and nursing staff in the Emergency Room who knew the routine of doing all the required screening plus getting a CT-scan plus get the tPA started promptly?

I thought getting this sequence done successfully would be most unlikely. But it happened on Saturday, and my wife is the lucky lady.

We were in our car; I spotted the stroke as she changed from talking coherently to being incoherent; the staff of a nearby convenience store knew there was a major hospital ten minutes away and gave the instructions on how to get there; and the ER attending physician and the ER nursing staff and CT-scan technicians all knew exactly what to do -- and within an hour and a half, the tPA was being administered.

And today, a day later, to the amazement of the ER staff, ICU staff, as well as her spouse, she has completely recovered.

Why tell this medical adventure to the world? Because you or a family member probably has diabetes -- or smokes -- or has high blood pressure -- and should know the importance of diagnosing and treating a stroke promptly.

Stroke symptoms are discussed at the American Heart Association website; they also have info on tPA. Please, please, please: read these webpages!

Finally, our heart-felt thanks to Dr. Jack, to Casey the ER nurse, to Courtney, Gary, Kelly, and Amy, and the many other unnamed staffers at Franklin Square Hospital Center in Baltimore, Maryland, as well as to a 7/11 store employee in Nottingham who knew where FSHC was and gave us directions. We are eternally grateful to them all.

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Dr. Bill Quick began writing at HealthCentral's diabetes website in November, 2006. These essays are reproduced at D-is-for-Diabetes with the permission of HealthCentral.

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