Seeking Stroke Care In The Time of COVID-19

During this unprecedented time of COVID-19, Rayetta Johnson, Stroke Program Manager at the Comprehensive Stroke Center, reminds us of the importance of seeking immediate medical attention if someone is experiencing stroke symptoms. Quick reaction time is key to stroke patients and the preservation of brain cells.

Disclaimer: learn more about the latest developments on visitor restrictions and testing at Wake Forest Baptist Health.

Disclaimer: learn more about the latest developments on visitor restrictions and testing.

Episode Highlights

What stroke services and expertise do we have here at Wake Forest Baptist Health?

Wake Forest Baptist Health is a Comprehensive Stroke Center which is the highest level of certification a center can receive from the Joint Commission. Therefore, we are able to provide all levels of care up to the highest complexity of neurosurgical cases.

For emergency stroke care there are two major treatments that we provide. First, intravenous medication called tPA. We can give this immediately to those patients that meet the criteria. “Time is brain”. As soon as we can deliver that medication, the patients outcome is usually greatly approved. We always try to decrease the time from when the patient enters our doors in the emergency department to get them a CAT scan and then provide them with the medication quickly. Our second treatment is called a thrombectomy procedure. Patients who are candidates for this procedure are taken immediately to our x-ray department. Our neuro-radiologist are able to remove blood clots from the blood vessel in the brain that’s causing the stroke. It’s truly amazing. We’ve seen patients come in who are completely paralyzed on their right side from the stroke, and when we do the procedure, we’ve restored blood supply and oxygen to the brain and the patient is back to normal when they leave. It’s one of the most gratifying things as a healthcare professional to see that patient totally come back to normal before your eyes.

What are the signs and symptoms of a stroke?

Remember “FAST”

F- Face: Ask the person to smile. If they have half a smile, are unable to bring both sides of their mouth up, or have weakness in one side of the face, that can be a sign.

A- Arm: Ask the person to lift up their arms. If they are unable to lift an arm or an arm is weak, or if they are able to lift their arm but it drops down quickly, that can be a sign.

S- Speech: Ask the person to say a simple sentence. If their speech is clear and easy to understand that is good, but if their speech is mumbled and difficult to understand or if they are unable to speak at all that’s a big sign.

T- Time:
Every minute counts. As soon as you see any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately and get to the emergency department.

These are the main symptoms of stroke. You can also notice:

  • Lose total or partial vision
  • Loss of balance, dizziness, or falling down
  • Sudden severe headache, often the worst headache you’ve ever felt. This can be the sign of a bleeding stroke
  • What should you do if you notice signs of a stroke?

Individuals and their family members have to be able to recognize the signs of a stroke and call 911 immediately and get to the emergency department so that we can begin treatment. Strokes are emergencies and time sensitive so it’s important to get to the emergency department immediately. Every second counts.

1.9 million brain cells die every minute after a stroke occurs. We need to stop these brain cells from dying as soon as possible.

Should I still come to the Emergency Department during the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Absolutely! During the Coronavirus Pandemic, many folks may feel scared to come to hospitals or emergency departments, even if they think they may be having a stroke.

Wake Forest Baptist Health has prepared for this pandemic and we have safety procedures in place. We have separate entrances for patients with Coronavirus and another entrance for all other patients. Stroke patients will be fast tracked into our emergency room and immediately taken in for treatment. You should not be weighing or contemplating, you need to come immediately if signs or symptoms are showing. This pandemic should not change the way we think of strokes. They are an emergency and we only have a few hours to provide these treatments, so as soon as symptoms start, you should come to the emergency department. Our procedures allow for safe care of our patients who suffer from a stroke, heart attack, and other emergencies.

How do we help care for patients who have suffered from a stroke after they have had treatment?  

We provide care across the continuum of stroke. We have a special state-of-the-art dedicated neuroscience intensive care unit where our stroke patients go to after receiving those emergency treatments. Once they are stable and doing well, they will then be transferred to our neurology or neuroscience unit where our nurses are specially trained to care for stroke patients. After that, if the patient needs further physical therapy, occupational therapy, or speech therapy, we can move them to our Sticht Center Rehab Facility to continue their rehabilitation from stroke. We also have outpatient options for those patients that are able to go home after treatment. We want the best outcomes for our patients so we tailor our care for each stroke patient based on what will best serve them and get them back to their normal lives.

We also have post-stroke nurses that follow up with patients once they go home to check on them, see how they are doing, and answer any questions. With the Coronavirus Pandemic, we are also able to follow up with virtual visits.

What are ways to reduce your risk of a stroke?

Strokes are preventable. The things that put us at risk of a stroke are high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, alcohol use, and drug use. We always encourage physical activity and eating a healthy diet to help prevent strokes.

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