By Dr. Ali Krisht
As hospitals and the healthcare community resume many services put on hold for the initial response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we see a new and disturbing trend unfolding. Many patients, even those who may have suffered traumatic injuries, are delaying care. Avoiding the hospital and delaying care does more than simply extend the time needed to recover from an injury. It often means allowing a treatable condition to become a life-threatening emergency. In the case of a stroke, it could also mean the difference between a full recovery or living with severe functional deficits the rest of their life.
Think of a stroke as a “brain attack.” A clot or bleeding blood vessel begins to starve the brain of oxygen. To help ensure the best possible outcome, patients require care within three hours of the first signs of a stroke. Without that oxygen, brain cells begin to die within minutes. Once they die, they cannot be replaced. Time = Brain. That’s why CHI St. Vincent and the Arkansas Neuroscience Institute (ANI) at CHI St. Vincent North have maintained a specialized team on 24/7 alert to initiate proper care for patients throughout the pandemic. We understand that every minute matters and not only saves lives, but gives patients the opportunity to live long, full lives.
The Danger of Delaying Care During a Pandemic
Our team, however, cannot give patients that opportunity if they delay care or avoid the hospital. Stroke did not take a hiatus during the pandemic. In fact, our team has increasingly encountered more severe cases throughout the past months for the simple fact that patients avoided coming to the hospital in time to receive optimal care.
Although hospitals temporarily paused elective procedures during the start of the pandemic, emergency care never stopped. And to minimize the possibility of exposure to COVID-19 at the hospital, CHI St. Vincent and other hospitals have enacted a string of precautions to ensure the safety of patients and healthcare staff alike. Those precautions include things like universal masking for staff and patients, limited visitation policies and even limiting the number of people in common areas to allow for social distancing.
We have always invested in infection control and prevention. If a patient suffers a stroke, the greatest threat to them is not receiving care at all. Our goal with each and every stroke patient is that they can wake up with absolutely zero functional deficits. This is absolutely possible today, but only if patients come to us in time. Don’t allow a loved one to talk themselves out of receiving care when it is clear they have suffered a stroke.
Recognizing a Stroke and Knowing When to Seek Care
Understanding the time sensitivity involved in stroke care also means recognizing when we or someone we love has suffered a stroke. Common symptoms or signs of a stroke include numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body. Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding, problems seeing in one or both eyes and trouble walking are all also common symptoms. Patients may even sometimes describe having the worst headache in their life strike them like a clap of thunder. Once you recognize those signs, it’s time to get to the emergency room immediately. Don’t wait until the morning to see if things get better. Remember, Time = Brain and the clock is ticking. Learn more at chistvincent.com.