By Kendall McGee | May 25, 2021 at 6:49 PM EDT – Updated May 25 at 7:53 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – Stroke is one of the top three causes of death in southeastern North Carolina, and one of the leading causes of disability. New Hanover Regional Medical Center has one of the top programs in the country for stroke patients, but said its protocols can only save lives if people in the community know how to spot a stroke and seek help fast.
Brunswick County resident Kay Pope didn’t know she was experiencing a stroke at the time, but she did know that she needed to get medical help. It was the middle of the night and she and her husband were sleeping, until a strange sensation woke her up.
“The way I felt just told me something was wrong,” explained Kay Pope “I realized my right arm was going numb. I had no idea why, I just knew that I had a really funny feeling in my arm.”
They made the call to drive to the ER in Brunswick County and arrived around 3 a.m. Soon after getting checked in, doctors realized she was having a stroke and a helicopter flew her to NHRMC. The Code Stroke page had already gone out, and staff was awaiting her arrival.
“I remember being wheeled into a relatively small room, probably had about 15 people in it, waiting on me and they did a procedure,” Pope recalls. “They went in and got the clot and my neurologist, Dr. Doss, said it took him nine minutes. Once the clot was out, all the symptoms were gone and I was fine.”
Doctors told her time played a role in why she had no long-term damage from her stroke.
Patients lose about two million brain cells a second when they’re suffering a stroke. Every moment patients wait for lifesaving medication or therapies can be the difference between making a full recovery or dealing with debilitating symptoms for the rest of their life.
It’s the reason the hospital instituted special protocols known as “Code Stroke” nearly a decade ago. Since the program began, Code Stroke has been activated more than 5,700 times and the time from arrival to treatment has been reduced to approximately 20 minutes, one of the fastest times in the entire country.
“Some of the symptoms can be reversible if you recognize them and get them treated early on. There’s a campaign that’s called “Spot a stroke” and that’s what we’re doing here — is getting the information out to the community,” said Dr. Vinodh Doss, medical director of stroke and neurointerventional surgery at NHRMC. “The last thing we need to do is say ‘oh this will go away.’ Most people with chest pain are going to come to the ER, but you’d be surprised, some people are like, ‘Well I can’t really use my hand, maybe I’ll take an aspirin and sleep it off and it will get better.’ If you’re having signs or symptoms of a stroke, you have to come in. It can happen to anyone.”
Loss of balance, blurred vision, face drooping, arm weakness and speech difficulty are all signs to seek help.
The hospital has one of the top programs in the country to save a life, but they can’t intervene until people make the call that the Popes did, and rush to the hospital.
Today, Kay Pope is able to go fishing with her husband, walk their puppy, Remi, on the beach, and live her life without any lingering symptoms of a stroke.
“Pay attention to your body, this isn’t something to mess around with,” said Pope.
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