By Jessica Tuggle
VERO BEACH - An area hospital received a top award for stroke patient care this month.
Indian River Medical Center is always improving on the services it offers and was recently recognized by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association with a silver achievement recognition award for stroke patient care.
Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in the U.S. Taking preventative measures against a stroke and seeking medical assistance during a stroke are the best things to optimize a person's life and well-being. But once a patient is at a hospital, there are definite standards for care and Indian River Medical Center is meeting and surpassing those standards, said Kathy Clark, nurse manager for the cardiac care unit and leader on the stroke care team.
Silver recognition is given when a hospital has met seven treatment guidelines with 85 percent or higher compliance for 12 consecutive months. After 24 months of the same high standard, the medical center could receive a gold award for patient care, Ms. Clark said.
The medical center is equipped with staff who are trained to evaluate and treat stroke patients and even administer clot-busting medications if the patient's condition is appropriate.
Vero Beach neurologist S. James Shafer said the award is only possible because of cooperation between various departments and staff.
"The achievement is a sign of the combined efforts and commitment of the entire stroke team, which involves multiple departments. The administration has been very supportive and given resources to develop this program and that has been very important," Dr. Shafer said.
As an institution, the medical center sees between 30 to 45 stroke patients each month, said Lisa Williams, a registered nurse and co-chair of the stroke team.
"And that is just those that come to see us," she said.
Strokes are caused by clots obstructing the flow of blood to the brain or by a blood vessel rupturing and preventing the flow of blood to the brain. When the brain does not receive the blood and oxygen it needs, the brain begins to die, a report from the American Stroke Association said.
"Stroke is a symptom of an underlying condition," said Ms. Williams.
Age is not the best indicator for pre-disposition to stroke, rather, it's all about overall health and lifestyles, she said.
A heart rhythm disorder, such as atrial fibrillation, diabetes, uncontrolled hypertension, or high blood pressure, smoking, poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle are some of the factors that increase chances of a stroke, said Ms. Clark
The number of stroke patients coming in in their 40s to Indian River Medical Center is increasing, most likely because of lifestyle choices.
"Stroke is not isolated to our geriatric population," Ms. Williams said.
Dr. Shafer said there is a four-step process to help identify if a stroke has occurred. It can be easily remembered by the acronym, FAST, which stands for face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time to call 911.
Asking an individual to smile will indicate if there is any facial drooping, and asking them to raise both arm will demonstrate any weakness, Dr. Shafer said.
Repeating simple sentences can be difficult for people who have experienced a stroke. If any person shows one or more of those symptoms, the best thing to do is get them immediately to a hospital, he said.
"That will capture 80 percent to 90 percent of stroke victims," Dr. Shafer said.
The faster a stroke victim is treated, the better the chance at an optimal recovery, Ms. Clark said.
The medical center is an advanced primary stroke center of excellence, as designated by the Joint Commission. The Joint Commission is an independent, not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies more than 19,000 health care organizations and programs in the U.S.
For more information about preventing or identifying stroke cases, visit www.strokeassociation.org.