First responders face challenges in treating strokes quickly

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 6:17 PM CDT
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CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo. (KFVS) - Getting medical help quickly after a stroke is one of the most important steps in reducing its severity.

That can be challenging in the Heartland, with medical facilities only in the larger towns.

Sudden numbness, vision loss, slurred speech are all symptoms that you are having a stroke, and once the first symptoms hit, every minute you are losing 1.9 million brain cells.

Southeast Health Stroke Coordinator Mary Green-Brown said for anyone, but especially those living in rural areas, time matters.

“The longer you wait, the more likely you are to have a disability that cannot allow you to do be able to continue with your normal way of life,” she said.

In 2018, the most up-to-date research from the CDC reported said an average there are 73 deaths from stroke per 100,000 adults.

In the Heartland, four counties in Illinois: Perry, Franklin, Union and Johnson are below the national average for stroke deaths in adults over 35.

But the story is different in Missouri.

For example, in New Madrid County, the rate is 97.8 deaths per 100,000.

One of the reasons is limited access to health care.

“Stroke patients living in rural areas have a longer distance to travel and so the further you have to go, the longer it’s going to take for you to receive treatment.”

North Scott County Ambulance District, administrator and paramedic Larry Chasteen said they face challenges too while working in rural areas.

“If you are in a smaller area or rural area that has a small hospital, but they are not a designated stroke center, the ambulance may have to bypass that hospital to get them to a more definitive care hospital that has those facilities available,” he said.

Chasteen said the main issue is they can’t provide stroke patients with the help they need in an ambulance.

“We can’t do a lot for them in the field because they are going to require surgical intervention,” Chasteen said.

However, he said calling 911 is safer than driving yourself.

“The key for us is early recognition,” he said. “So, when we get on the scene, we want to determine really quick if it is a stroke and when we determine that, we try to get them out of the house and to the hospital as fast we can.”

When it comes to treating strokes, the best thing you can do is recognize the symptoms and call for help.

“Disease management, risk management and recognition of stroke are the key things to stroke treatment and prevention,” Chasteen said. “So, recognizing the stroke, calling 911, those are the best things you can do for stroke management and treatment.”

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