On average, between 30 to 40 people go to Comanche County Memorial Hospital’s ER every month because of a stroke or stroke-like symptoms. While we were filming this story about strokes, ER staff had to jump into action because they were notified of a code stroke. When they heard that, a timer was started.

Doctor Vanessa Clendenin, the new Medical Director for CCMH’s Stroke Program, said they watch the clock closely. Because as the saying goes: “time is brain.”

“The rapidity at which we address these issues is really critical to the outcome,” Dr. Clendenin said. “How fast they can go to CT Scan, how quickly they can get clot-busting medication if it is indeed an ischemic stroke, how fast we can get blood pressure lowered, blood sugar lowered, all those things are really important, and we have to act really quickly.”

So, going to the emergency room when symptoms of a stroke start is crucial.

“It’s always sad to see somebody that started feeling badly or that presented two days ago, and they’re outside the window for any clot-busting medication or thrombectomy,” she said. “Then there’s not much we can do. We can control these other parameters, and get them with speech therapy and physical therapy, and make sure their medications are in line, but it sure is helpful if they come in sooner.”

What are the symptoms? One acronym to remember is BE FAST. It stands for: Balance, Eyes, Face, Arms, Speech, and Time. She said one thing that helps them when they’re trying to treat the patient quickly is a patient advocate.

“And it’s best if they come with the patient,” Dr. Clendenin said. “If there’s dysphagia, where we can’t understand the patient, they need an advocate to tell us: when the symptoms started and what medicine they’re on. All of that information is really critical, and it’s time-sensitive.”

CCMH has been nationally recognized by the American Heart Association for its dedication to helping patients have the best possible chance of survival after a stroke. They were awarded “Gold Plus” for meeting certain benchmarks for 24 consecutive months, and they’re on track to receive the Gold award again this year.

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