Team work saving lives of stroke patients in Portsmouth

PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — Ahead of world stroke day next week, a local hospital has teamed up with fire and rescue on a new program that is saving lives.

Joyce Early is enjoying what she calls a second chance at life. Six months ago she had a massive stroke. “I knew something was happening. I didn’t know what it was,” she told 10 On Your Side.

She collapsed on the floor and her husband called 911. “I’m totally surprised that she’s in as good health as she is,” he said.

Medical experts are surprised too. Kathryn Funk, Neuroscience coordinator for Bon Secours Maryview Medical Center told, “We use something called NIH stroke scale for severity, and it can go as high up to 42. Ms. Early came in. She was a 35, people who are 35 either don’t live or they’re a long-term disability.”

Early shows no signs of having a stroke at all. Funk credits a new collaboration between Portsmouth Fire and Rescue and Bon Secour Maryview Medical Center which cut her treatment time by more than half the national average. The process is quite simple and cheap.

“What we’re talking about is the cost of putting lab tubes on a truck,” Funk said.

EMTs drew her blood and called it in on the way to the hospital, then took her directly from the ambulance to the CT scan when they arrived.

On average, Funk said, that saves 12 minutes on the blood test and 10 minutes on the CT Scan. Crucial time for a stroke patient.

“For every minute that goes by when a person has a stroke they lose 3.6 weeks of their life,” Funk added.

It truly is a race against the clock. The goal is to get patients a clot busting drug within 70 minutes of a stroke, by four hours it’s too late. Early got it in 34 minutes. In that race, and in now in life she is a winning.

“It’s a miracle that I’m here,” said Early.

Since time is of the essence you want to get help FAST. Here are the signs to look for:

  • Face drooping
  • Arm tingling or numbness
  • Speech that is slurred or difficulty speaking
  • Time to call 9-1-1.

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