While having lunch with family during a visit to Nashville, Charles Hutchison had a stroke.
“In less than a minute, I went from feeling funny to not being able to move,” Hutchison recalled.
His sister noticed that his left side appeared to have gone weak and called 9-1-1.
Hutchison was on medication to prevent strokes because he’d had them before. While traveling, he recently missed taking the medicine.
“I had three minor strokes previously but this was much more difficult,” he said. “I knew this one was different.”
His previous strokes lasted only a couple of minutes. Hutchison never had to go directly to the emergency room or even the physician office.
Emergency medical services had Hutchison, age 60, to the emergency room in 25 minutes from the onset of symptoms.
“When Mr. Hutchison arrived at our emergency room, he couldn’t talk and his entire left side of his body was not moving,” said Adrian Jarquin-Valdivia, M.D., neurointensivist at TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. “Tests quickly showed that he had a blood clot in his brain causing a massive stroke and immediately began a new treatment procedure that combines administering blood thinners intravenously and using new ultrasound technology to break up the blood clot.”
When someone experiences a stroke, blood flow to the brain is interrupted. Without blood, the brain doesn’t receive oxygen. Every second the brain goes without receiving oxygen the higher chance of long-term brain damage or death.
This new procedure, called Sonothrombolysis, works quickly to get blood flowing to the brain again. Ultrasound waves from a hand-held device loosen and dissolve the blood clot.
Jarquin-Valdivia and his team began the procedure just 34 minutes after Hutchison entered the hospital. The standard of care for starting treatment for a stroke victim is 60 minutes from the time a patient enters the hospital, known as the door to needle time.
TriStar Centennial Medical Center is the only hospital in the Nashville area using ultrasound to treat stroke patients. The ultrasound technology is most commonly used for diagnostic purposes. In stroke patients, that means looking at how blood is flowing through the body and identifying where a clot may be located. This technology allows us to see the clot and, using the sound waves, to vibrate and break up the clot as well.
“Mr. Hutchison had a very severe blood clot,” said Jarquin-Valdivia. “Most people who experience the level of stroke that he had do not survive and if they do, they have major life-changing disabilities.”
Hutchison remembers receiving the treatment in the hospital.
“Half of everything was numb. I couldn’t see out of my left eye,” he recalled. “I was wondering if I was ever going to get over it.”
The technology worked. In less than 48 hours, Hutchison’s test results showed that he had zero signs of a stroke. He made a full neurological recovery.
Just as suddenly as he lost feeling as the stroke set in, Hutchison said he regained feeling and sight on his left side. He could talk. The next day, he was out of bed and even playing a 12-string guitar and singing a tune in the Neuroscience Intensive Care Unit.
Jarquin-Valdivia said Hutchison’s stroke experience and outcome demonstrate the importance of knowing the symptoms of a stroke and of seeking emergency care quickly from a certified stroke center.
“The brain is very vulnerable. Being able to recognize when someone is having a stroke and seeking qualified care quickly could be the difference between life and death and the extent of brain damage injury,” he said. “It is important people know that early therapy can reduce the extent of the brain damage injury. Know how to recognize of the symptoms.”
Someone may be having a stroke if their face is crooked or drooping, if they are having trouble lifting one or both arms in the air, or if their words are slurred or they are having trouble speaking.
“To save the brain, you need to think F.A.S.T.: Face-Arms-Speech-Time. It could save a life,” Jarquin-Valdivia said. “If you witness someone showing any signs of stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately to get them help. FAST.”
Stroke remains the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. Every second, 1.5 people will have a stroke and 15 of these people will die every minute. Stroke survivors often experience lasting and life-changing disabilities. Risk of stroke is even greater in Middle Tennessee, an area of the country known as the “Stroke Belt.”
For more information on stroke and stroke care at TriStar Centennial and within the TriStar Stroke network, visit TriStar Health.com and select TriStar Centennial Medical Center.