Every second counts for someone experiencing stroke symptoms. Stroke — a loss of blood supply to the brain — is the nation’s fourth leading cause of death, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and requires immediate medical attention.
The good news for Inland Northwest residents, though, is that another major Spokane hospital has joined the region’s lineup of Primary Stroke Centers.
Being recognized as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission, which accredits health care providers throughout the country, means Deaconess Hospital’s procedures for treating stroke patients are aligned with the latest and most effective treatment standards, says Jon Ween, a neurologist and the medical director of the hospital’s stroke program.
Deaconess received Primary Stroke Center Certification late last summer, joining Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center and Providence Holy Family Hospital.
“If you come to a Primary Stroke Center, you know you will get expert evaluation, tests, treatments, nursing care and everyone on staff has been specifically educated to do those things according to guidelines,” says Ween. “Even more so, the guidelines are continually evolving and we are continually educating ourselves about stroke.”
A key step is efficient and accurate diagnosis of the possible stroke. “We do an MRI if we can because it’s very sensitive in showing early changes after stroke. We nail down what and where and the likely cause … imaging the blood vessels in detail right off the bat,” Ween says.
In becoming certified as a Primary Stroke Center, Deaconess was also evaluated for its stroke rehabilitation protocol.
“The recovery outcome is always better the quicker you get going with the rehab, and we spend time getting patients up and in chairs and doing physical, speech and occupational therapy as soon as possible,” Ween says.
And, he adds, “We try very hard to help them understand what caused it so they can try to prevent another stroke.”
While Deaconess’ sister hospital, Valley Hospital, hasn’t applied for or received Primary Stroke Center Certification, Ween says the two facilities’ medical teams have collaborated to ensure stroke patients are getting the same level of urgent care.
After the initial diagnosis and treatment is administered to stroke patients at Valley Hospital, they’re transferred to Deaconess’ stroke center for continued care and therapy.
Rather than worrying about getting to a medical facility that’s received Primary Stroke Center Certification, Ween says to call 911 if you are, or think you might be, experiencing a stroke. Symptoms to be aware of are sudden and severe headache, confusion, numbness, abrupt changes in physical coordination or sensations like hearing, taste and touch.
“Don’t try to sleep it off. Don’t call a family member to drive you to the doctor’s office. Getting to a hospital is the most important thing,” says Ween.