By REBECCA ISENHART
SCHENECTADY — A tingle in one arm, blurred vision, dizziness, or confusion: Taken alone, these experiences can be nothing. In combination, they often signal a stroke.
“It’s a terrible thing,” said Dr. Richard Brooks, chief of neurology and medical director of the Ellis Stroke Center. “It’s probably one of the things people are more frightened of than anything else. A stroke can leave somebody terribly disabled.”
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control, strokes are a common cause of disability and the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States.
Luckily, the earlier a stroke is recognized and treated, the more likely a person is to recover, especially if he or she arrives at an emergency room within three hours of experiencing signs of stroke.
And if that emergency room is at Ellis Hospital, their chances of improving are even better. The American Heart Association celebrated doctors at Ellis Hospital on Oct. 29 for making the best use of the short window after a stroke to give patients the best possible chances of rehabilitation.
For the eighth consecutive year, Ellis’ stroke care earned the association’s Get With the Guidelines–Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award. The hospital also earned an honor roll designation for fast care.
“I think the hospital, for probably 15 years or more, has been committed to that being an important part of their care,” Brooks said. “Some hospitals take care of strokes because strokes come to the emergency room and they have to do it. Ellis has made it a priority.”
Brooks said there are physicians and nurses who specialize in stroke care available 24 hours a day. He said the hospital is working to make sure there’s a backup stroke team in-house, in case two stroke patients arrive simultaneously, which has happened on occasion.
Betty Sutton received stroke treatment at Ellis when she had a stroke after hip surgery about a decade ago. In the days following her stroke, she could hardly imagine recovery.
“I wasn’t able to sit up at first,” she said. If she was propped into a sitting position, she often accidentally rolled over.
Her stroke didn’t affect her speech, but it did cause partial paralysis in her left leg and arm. After rehabilitation, mostly at Sunnyview Hospital as both an inpatient and, later, an outpatient, she regained full control of her arm and now moves independently.
“Now I need a walker to walk and I have a full brace on my leg,” Sutton said.
She still relies on the people at Ellis for emotional support. “They have a stroke support group that I’ve been going to about nine years now,” she said.
The opportunity for patients to live a happy life and meet with others for support years after a stroke is what Brooks works for.
“We’ve had some patients come in with what looks like is going to be a life-altering stroke,” he said. “With appropriate treatment we’ve had people who walk out of the hospital back to normal or almost back to normal. That doesn’t happen all the time, but when it does it’s certainly rewarding.”