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Parkland stresses importance of knowing signs, symptoms of stroke

Nurse shares her stroke story and how she hopes to help other stroke survivors

Wednesday May 21, 2014
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In 2006, Deidre Hannah, RN, MSN, was an active 30-year-old with no health problems. A nurse, she had worked at several area hospitals, including in the Parkland Memorial Hospital ED in Dallas. Alone at home one evening, she became alarmed when her body began to
fail her.

“I remember a tingling sensation on my right side, then my legs got weak and I couldn’t walk,” Hannah said in a news release. “I’d had some neck pain for a few days, but out of nowhere, I had a severe headache and my vision blurred. It hit me like a ton of bricks.”

Hannah called a friend, also a nurse, who advised her to hang up and dial 911 immediately. Making that phone call probably saved her life. Hannah was suffering a stroke.

Types of stroke

There are two kinds of stroke, according to Mani Alavi, MD, an emergency room physician at Parkland Health & Hospital System. “Ischemic stroke is when a blood clot interrupts the blood supply to a specific region of the brain,” he said in the release. “About 90% of strokes are ischemic. The other type is hemorrhagic strokes, caused when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.”

Hannah’s stroke was a type of ischemic stroke called embolic stroke, the result of a rare condition that caused both arteries in her neck to rupture, releasing a blood clot that traveled to her brain.

“The symptoms of both types of stroke can be similar,” Alavi said in the release. “They include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or difficulty understanding speech; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes; sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or lack of coordination; and sudden severe headache with no known cause. May is National Stroke Awareness Month and we want people to know stroke’s warning signs.”

Whatever the type of stroke, swift medical intervention is needed. When an EMS team reports to Parkland’s ED that a suspected stroke patient is en route, the Parkland stroke team is notified and ready to begin treatment immediately. The team includes neurologists, ER physicians, radiologists, stroke-trained first response nurses, ER nurses, pharmacists and other specialists.

“When dealing with stroke, time equals brain,” Alavi said in the release. “The sooner the patient gets help, the better their chances of recovery.”

“When I woke up in the intensive care unit, I couldn’t move, speak or see,” Hannah said in the release. “But I knew I would get it all back, somehow. I thank goodness for the care I got at Parkland’s ER and stroke unit.”

Years of therapy and her faith in herself and God have slowly paid off, according to Hannah. Hannah’s sight returned and she underwent occupational, speech and physical therapy to re-learn how to care for herself, walk and speak. She also managed to earn an MSN and plans to work in a stroke rehabilitation program to help patients like herself.

“I feel like I can help a lot of patients because I know what it’s like,” she said in a news release.

Mark Johnson, MD, neurologist and director of the stroke program at Parkland and one of the physicians who treated Hannah, said common risk factors for stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, coronary artery disease, drug and tobacco use and atrial fibrillation. The CDC reports that 49% of all Americans have at least one of these risk factors.

“If someone suspects they or someone they are with is having a stroke, they need to seek medical care immediately,” Johnson said in the release. “Call 911 immediately because EMS will transport them to the closest stroke center.”

Parkland awards for treatment of stroke patients

Parkland recently received the Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Gold-Plus Quality Achievement Award for implementing specific quality improvement measures outlined by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association for the treatment of stroke patients. For more information, visit www.parklandhospital.com

Stroke stats

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., with someone in America dying from stroke every four minutes. More than 795,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke each year. Stroke costs the nation about $36.5 billion each year, including the cost of healthcare services, medications and lost productivity.


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