Local EMS Stroke Response Story
As your ambulance pulls up, time is already ticking. Coastal Carolina Hospital stroke emergency personnel are ready and waiting for your arrival. They haven’t met you yet, but they already know you might be having a cerebrovascular accident (CVA) or stroke. They are prepared to treat you because the Jasper County Emergency Medical Services team notified them of your condition before they even began to transport you to the hospital. The goal of this carefully coordinated system is to try to save every moment of precious time. “Upon making a determination of a possible stroke in a pre-hospital setting, our first responders notify the hospital as soon as possible. This gives them the opportunity to prepare. The hospital staff then executes a rapid secondary assessment and can quickly move the patient into the established hospital protocols for stroke treatment,” says Jasper County Emergency Services Deputy Chief, Russell Wells.
As South Carolina’s third biggest killer, stroke care is a major focus for both area EMS and Coastal Carolina Hospital. Immediate treatment can minimize the long-term effects of stroke and help prevent further complications. As a primary stroke center, Coastal Carolina Hospital has met certain criteria to achieve this designation including having a specific stroke unit for continuous patient monitoring, educating at least eighty percent of emergency department practitioners on acute stroke protocols and collecting, analyzing and using standardized data measures to continually improve patients’ treatment plans. “We are committed to investing in technology and using evidence-based protocols that can help our stroke patients have the best outcomes possible,” says Coastal Carolina Hospital Chief Executive Officer, Joel Taylor. “But, it is the teamwork of the hospital and EMS that makes our combined stroke onset time to treatment reduction efforts truly notable.”
While EMS and the hospital have partnered for coordinated stroke care, the community also plays a major role in increasing good outcomes. Wells says that is vital to know the signs and symptoms so you can help a friend or neighbor who may be experiencing a stroke. They key is to remember to act F.A.S.T., which is the mantra of the American Stroke Association.
F: Facial Droop
A: Arm weakness/ inability to move
S: Speech Difficulty
T: Time to call 911
Wells adds that a patient’s chance of survival can greatly increase if a stroke happens in an area where hospital staff and EMS have protocols in place to work collaboratively, as is the case in Jasper County. During a stroke, time is brain, so the collective main goal is to try to decrease the time it takes for patients to receive stroke treatment. “Our ability to shorten transport times and initiate advanced pre-hospital care can reduce the long-term complications associated with strokes,” says Wells. “We are rendering aid to our neighbors, friends and sometimes even family. As emergency personnel, we want to save as much time as possible because we know that every minute matters.”