Good Samaritan Working to Decrease the Number of Strokes

May is Stroke Awareness Month and Good Samaritan is working to ensure more people are informed and can recognize the signs of someone having a stroke. Stroke is an emergency. It is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of severe disability. It strikes every 40 seconds and 80% of strokes may have been prevented.

Prevention is the number one key for ending stroke. Understanding the risk factors for stroke can have a huge impact on the likelihood of a stroke occurring. The largest risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. “People who have high blood pressure have one and a half times the risk of having a stroke. The most important thing you can do is control it,” said Julie Thomas, Director of Good Samaritan Dayson Heart Center. “During stroke month, we are encouraging everyone to remember to have your blood pressure checked.” Along with high blood pressure, other risk factors include: high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, smoking, heavy alcohol use, physical inactivity and obesity, atrial fibrillation (irregular heartbeat) and family history of stroke.

If a stroke does occur, identifying the signs and getting treatment fast can make the difference between life and death, or between a full recovery and long-term disability. Amanda Allen, Stroke Services Coordinator at Good Samaritan, stated that Indiana has recently been added as one of the 11 states in the “stroke belt” across the nation with high stroke mortality rates. “We are working hard here at Good Samaritan to provide excellent care to our stroke patients and getting them appropriate and timely treatment,” said Allen. “We want patients to be aware of their risk factors, know their signs and symptoms and how to activate 911.” A large component of educating the community about the signs of stroke, is the acronym, FAST – Face, Arm, Speech, Time. F is for Face: look for an uneven smile; A is for Arm: check if one arm is weak; S is for Speech: listen for slurred speech, and T is for Time: call 911 right away. Remembering to act FAST saves time and brain loss.

Dr. Thimjon Ferguson, Emergency Room physician and Stroke Program Director, stated that, “Time is the brain. Only 5% of patients get to the hospital in time to provide care while the stroke could possibly be managed with tissue plasminogen activator (Alteplase IV r-TPA), an FDA-approved treatment for strokes, depending on stroke type and severity. It is very important that people become aware of symptoms and recognize that these are an emergency and seek treatment as soon as possible.”

Recovery in patients after they have suffered a stroke is vital to their ability to return to their normal lives. Patients are seen in inpatient and outpatient settings at Good Samaritan in the Rehabilitation and Physical Medicine Departments. The inpatient rehab unit is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) as a Stoke Specialty Unit. Their focus is on individualized treatment with several health care professionals including but not limited to: physical, occupational and speech therapies, pet therapy, a dietitian, social services and a nurse educator.

“We offer individualized patient and family stroke education that focuses on preventing a stroke and getting back to living a great quality of life after a stoke has occurred in the inpatient setting,” said Amy Pfoff, Physical Medicine Outpatient Manager and Inpatient Rehab Stroke Coordinator. “Then once a patient is discharged from the hospital, if they need to continue their therapy, they can visit us on an outpatient basis.”

“The key facts about stroke everyone needs to remember is that it is preventable and it is treatable,” added Allen. “I want to provide the tools and education to our communities so they can become informed about stroke so we can decrease the risk, recognize the symptoms and respond at the first sign of stroke.”

During Tuesday’s board meeting at Good Samaritan, Debra Hardwick, Community Health Coordinator, presented information about their stroke screenings in February of 2018. A record number of 123 people attended the stroke screenings and received: a free lipid profile (cholesterol panel), carotid bruit and atrial fibrillation check, blood pressure, height and weight, BMI, and an individualized one-on-one stroke risk factor evaluation and education with a registered nurse. An evidence-based patient education booklet on stroke and a personalized stroke risk scorecard was also given to each patient.

“The debilitation effects of stroke can be life-altering,” said Hardwick. “Paralysis of limbs, speech and language problems, memory loss and behavior changes can result from stroke, which is why the significance of Good Samaritan offering an annual free stroke screening is crucial to the health of our community.”

The free stroke screening clinic has been offered by Good Samaritan for the past 20 years. Multiple departments work with Community Health to offer this service to the community including: Cardiology, Emergency Department, Inpatient Rehab, Laboratory, Environmental Services, Volunteer Services and Marketing.

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