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Vidant Health: learning stroke warning signs critical to patient outcomes

May 27, 2015 by Amy Holcombe

One out of six people will suffer a stroke in their lifetime. The prevalence of stroke is more common in North Carolina than other parts of the nation, as it is a part of a region of eight to 12 states that makes up the “stroke belt,” where stroke death rates have been higher than the rest of the nation. 

“Stroke is the result of a blockage of the arteries to the brain,” said Dr. Donald Price, medical director, Vidant Medical Center Stroke Center, and clinical associate professor of neurology at ECU's Brody School of Medicine. “Unlike other medical illnesses where a person can leave the hospital looking the same as when admitted, stroke often irreversibly changes the ability of a person to function independently.” 

Each May, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association recognizes American Stroke Month to bring awareness to and teach the warning signs of stroke, including facial drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty. Calling 911 quickly for help is essential. The acronym FAST – for face, arm, speech and time (to call 911) – may help people recognize stroke. Dr. Price said knowing these warning signs might help make the difference between life and death or between full recovery and permanent disability. He added that patients who arrive early can receive therapies that improve their outcomes.

Leslie Cannon of Greenville was just 34 when she collapsed at home from a stroke. Her friends and family cared for her instantly until a rescue squad arrived to take her to Vidant Medical Center. She spent the next week in intensive care, followed by three weeks of rehabilitation therapy. Gradually, she relearned how to speak, walk, drive and handle daily activities, like taking care of her young daughter.

She’s since found a way to put her experience as a patient to work helping others who have suffered a stroke craft a new life. She is one of 120 patient and family advisors serving throughout Vidant Health.

Cannon works with those who’ve had a stroke, spinal cord injury or other debilitating illness at the Rehabilitation Center at Vidant Medical Center. “Patients don’t understand it at the time, but occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech therapy are the keys to success,” she said. “There is a life after stroke. That’s the most important message of all.” 

Vidant Medical Center is committed to providing quality care to stroke patients. It was the first hospital east of I-95 to be certified as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission, the organization that sets standards for and accredits health care organizations in the U.S..

Being a Primary Stroke Center means that the hospital has trained staff and dedicated resources to care for anyone suffering from stroke. It's also a sign of the commitment to improve patients' outcomes.
The mission of the Vidant Medical Center Primary Stroke Center is to provide excellent stroke care to the people of eastern North Carolina through treatment, education, prevention and research.

Prevention is the best treatment for stroke, providers note. People can start lowering their stroke risk factors by working with a provider to get screened and treated for stroke major risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, elevated cholesterol, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, smoking, obesity, sedentary lifestyle and sleep apnea.

Vidant Medical Center offers screenings throughout the year educating the public on these numbers and how to lower them. Terry Congleton, stroke nurse educator, is available to conduct screenings throughout the community. Call 252-847-0162 for more information about screening opportunities.

Vidant Medical Center also offers a stroke support group which provides socialization, support and education for people who have had a stroke and their families. This group meets the second Thursday of each month at 6:30 pm in the rehabilitation center classroom. Call 252-847-5851 for more information about this group.
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