By Meaghan Lawrence-Kreeft, Communications Coordinator
Bluewater Health, Sarnia

In the world of stroke, it’s often said that ‘time is brain’. When oxygen-rich blood is blocked from reaching the brain, more brain nerve cells will die, producing damage and disability. Early intervention in stroke is critical – to help to restore blood flow to the brain and, as a result, better the chances of recovery.

At Bluewater Health, we’re giving patients increased access to the brain-saving treatments they need.

Improving response times and using the power of technology

Research shows that quick access to treatment can dramatically reduce the severity of strokes suffered by Canadians. To shorten the time it takes to treat patients, Bluewater Health uses a process called Code Stroke.

Similar to calling a Code Blue, which alerts the hospital team of a heart attack, Code Stroke is the alert for a stroke. In the Emergency Department, Code Stroke ensures the prompt arrival of key staff for an incoming stroke patient by ambulance. By readying care providers before a patient’s arrival, the hospital team is better able to respond and plan for their care. Patients with stroke symptoms can then be rapidly and thoroughly assessed once they arrive, and that early intervention can decrease life-altering effects.

In addition to improving response times, Bluewater Health is using the power of technology to connect its staff and physicians with stroke experts across the province. Telestroke is the use of telephone, internet and videoconferencing to exchange medical information specifically for stroke care. This 24/7 service provides the hospital team with immediate access to neurologists in Ontario who have expertise in stroke care and can support both the assessment and treatment of patients experiencing a stroke – including whether or not to administer clot-busting drugs like tPA.

Having a prompt neurological evaluation increases the possibility that you may receive clot-dissolving therapies or other clot-retrieving procedures in time to reduce disability and death resulting from stroke.

Bluewater Health put Telestroke to work in June of 2014. Between June 2014 and December 2014, Bluewater Health provided stroke neurology consultation to 29 patients with stroke, 11 of which received tPA. These encouraging early results show that Telestroke is a great enhancement to stroke care provided here in our community.

Putting ideas into action

Jim Lambert of Point Edward had a stroke in July 2014 and says it was early intervention and access to Telestroke that allowed him to have an amazing recovery.

Jim Lambert of Point Edward stands in the small woodworking shop at New Beginnings, where he’s responsible for cutting out project patterns for others to put together, paint and decorate.

Jim Lambert of Point Edward stands in the small woodworking shop at New Beginnings, where he’s responsible for cutting
out project patterns for others to put together, paint and decorate.

“I remember feeling off that day, and went to lie down in bed while I waited for a phone call from my wife,” Jim says, reflecting back on the day he had his stroke. “I started to feel worse and knew that something was wrong. Then I lost my vision.”

With the phone close by, Jim instinctively began to dial. As if by fate, he placed a call to a friend who answered when Jim needed her the most – even though he couldn’t tell her that he did. Because Jim’s speech was slurred, that friend went over to check on him with her son-in-law, a registered nurse at Bluewater Health. He was quick to recognize the signs that Jim was having a stroke and he called 911 immediately. A Code Stroke was then called in hospital.

“I remember waking up in the ICU and learning what had happened. I learned that the doctors at Bluewater Health had consulted with a neurologist in Ottawa, and everyone had worked together to help me. They had used the clot-busting drug tPA, and it worked,” says Jim.

Over the course of the next nine days, Jim spent time in the Acute Stroke and Rehabilitation Units at Bluewater Health in Sarnia. His recovery was swift, and with the ongoing care and support of Stroke Nurse Specialist Angela Sekeris and the hospital team, he talked, moved his left side and did everything he did before his stroke. On the day he left the hospital, Jim stopped in to visit the staff and physicians in the Emergency Department. He was able to share his appreciation for the team that had cared for him on the day of his stroke, and show them the extent of his recovery. “The doctors and nurses helped me to recover the way I needed to and wanted to,” he says.

Reflecting back on his experience, he says, “Everyone worked so well together and my care was excellent – it allowed me to walk out of the hospital after nine days with no long-term effects.”

Jim is now a member of the New Beginnings Club in Sarnia, which provides social, recreation, education and leisure opportunities to survivors and families impacted by brain injury or stroke. The program is supported by the United Way of Sarnia-Lambton and the Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network.

As the first patient to journey through the Code Stroke and Telestroke process, Jim’s successful outcome is a shining example of why enhancements in care and practice at Bluewater Health are giving patients increased access to the brain-saving treatments they need.

Know the signs and act FAST

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Stroke is a medical emergency and every minute counts.

FAST LOCKUPS_EN_001Anyone who witnesses or experiences the signs of a stroke should call 9-1-1 immediately so the person can get to a designated stroke hospital that is equipped to provide emergency stroke care.

The sooner someone who is experiencing stroke gets to a hospital and receives appropriate treatment, the better their chances of recovery.

In Lambton County, the designated stroke centre is Bluewater Health in Sarnia.

Being a high performer

Bluewater Health was highlighted as the top performer in the province in three of 19 key areas, in the Ontario Stroke Network’s 2014 Ontario Stroke Evaluation Report. The report reviewed stroke data between April 2012 and March 2013.

Our strengths are in providing access to care – both on the Acute Stroke Unit and Inpatient Rehabilitation. Specifically those three areas highlight that:

  • 94% of stroke patients received care on our Acute Stroke Unit when an inpatient stay was required
  • Patients had the greatest access to Inpatient Rehabilitation following a stroke event if they required it
  • Patients who required Inpatient Rehabilitation were able to access that care quickly, and in the shortest time in the province

What this means for Sarnia-Lambton is that our patients have the best opportunity for recovery following a stroke. The brain is primed for optimal recovery in the early days following a stroke and that is why timely access to care and rehabilitation are so very important.