Stroke: Speed is Everything

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When a public figure of former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala’s stature experiences a health event, the one good result is public awareness of signs, symptoms and the best course for care.

The 74-year-old Shalala, stricken by stroke Tuesday evening following a meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative, was quickly taken to a hospital.Clot busting drugs administered within 4.5 hours of stroke onset enhance the extent of recovery, and a comprehensive stroke center will be able to administer a full array of therapies, such as clot retrieval devices used to treat larger strokes, according to Dr. Truman J. Milling, Jr., a Ascension Seton stroke researcher and emergency room doctor.

“Early recognition is key,” said Commander Mike Benavides, public information officer with Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services.

“Family, friends, even the person experiencing a stroke can help us expedite care by recognizing that a stroke is occurring,” Benavides said. “The moment we believe someone is having a stroke, the ATC EMS command center will direct first responders to the nearest stroke center and alert the hospital to mobilize the stroke team.”

Marcie Wilson, Ascension Seton Cardiovascular Disease/Stroke Community Outreach Coordinator who also works with the Ascension Seton Brain and Spine Institute, shared these stroke warning signs:

  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause
  • Blurred vision or trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg – particularly on one side of the body
  • Dizziness, including loss of balance or coordination
  • Slurred speech or difficulty speaking

Ascension Seton operates comprehensive stroke centers at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin, Ascension Seton Medical Center Hays, Ascension Seton Medical Center Williamson and University Medical Center Brackenridge. University Medical Center Brackenridge and Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin were the first two hospitals in the entire state of Texas to receive Primary Stroke Center certification from The Joint Commission.