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Event shows how important time is with strokes




When it comes to a stroke, time saved is brain saved.

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When it comes to a stroke, time saved is brain saved.

That was the message shared at a public event Thursday evening at Hays Medical Center. May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and the event was intended to educate locals about the symptoms and treatments of stroke, said Carol Groen, director of emergency and outpatient nursing services.

"One of our biggest challenges is for patients to come to us in a timely manner," Groen said. "It's not unusual for patients to wait 12 to 24 hours. They don't recognize the symptoms; they think they'll get better. Maybe they're even afraid to come."

Guest speaker for the evening was Dr. Colleen Lechtenberg, medical director of the stroke program at University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan.

A stroke occurs when bloodflow to the brain is obstructed, most often due to a blocked blood vessel.

Symptoms of a stroke vary in severity and are determined by which part of the brain is affected. A stroke in the right part of the brain affects the left side of the body, and vice versa, Lechtenberg said.

Common symptoms include drooping facial features, inability to move one side of the body, slurred speech or sudden confusion.

Any time a stroke is suspected, victims or bystanders should call 911 immediately, she said, noting that has proven to be the quickest and safest way to reach help, even in rural areas.

"If you think somebody's having a stroke, just call 911," she said.

It's estimated 32,000 brain cells die each second during a stroke. Thus, seeking help immediately is important to help preserve healthy brain tissue and limit the amount of damage, she said.

A recent statewide initiative called Kansas Initiative for Stroke Survival helps educate and prepare small hospitals with the protocol and drugs to treat stroke patients, Lechtenberg said.

Nearly 40 small hospitals, including several facilities in northwest Kansas, have been declared emergent stroke ready as part of the initiative.

"It's a really big accomplishment for our state," she said, noting the treatment rate of emergent stroke patients has begun to increase since the initiative started in 2010.

It's estimated 80 percent of strokes are preventable, Lechtenberg said, noting tobacco use, high blood pressure and uncontrolled diabetes are thought to increase risk.

More than 30 people attended the event, which is part of a quarterly Coffee & Conversation group that meets at HaysMed to discuss cardiac issues.

Debra Gross of Hays was among those in attendance.

"I have had open-heart surgery, so I just wanted to come and listen just to see if there's anything else I can do to prevent it," she said.