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Stroke Program Achievements Celebrated During National Stroke Awareness Month

Marketing & Public Relations Contact:
Melissa Morgan
(941) 798-6056

May 04, 2010

Bradenton, FL – Five years ago yesterday, Blake Medical Center implemented a new process to speed emergent care for stroke patients, not unlike a “Code Blue” for heart attack patients, “Code 3” was born on May 3, 2005. It was no accident that the process was started on the 3rd of May (which is National Stroke Awareness Month), nor that the numeral three was used in naming the code. It serves as a reminder that a clot-dissolving drug, called tPA, can be given during the first three hours after the onset of stroke symptoms—dramatically improving the outcome for stroke patients.

Three hours may seem like a long time, and it would be, if every patient called 9-1-1 at the first sign of a stroke. Unfortunately, many people wait hours or even days, killing precious brain tissue with each passing minute. Two things were necessary to maximize the number of patients eligible for tPA in this race against the clock: public education, and extremely efficient emergency processes.

The community education was relatively easy to tackle, although it’s forever ongoing. People need to recognize the signs and symptoms of stroke and understand the importance of calling 9-1-1 immediately, rather than waiting to “see if it will pass” or having a friend or family member drive the stroke patient to the emergency room. Free community lectures, awareness campaigns, screenings, and information on the hospital’s website, all serve to educate the community about these issues.

Unlike community education, streamlining the emergency treatment process for stroke patients was a bit more involved. To achieve maximum efficiency, the Stroke Team at Blake invited Manatee County EMS to join them in finding ways to lessen the impact of stroke in the community. The most unusual, and probably most valuable, change was to allow EMS Paramedics to call a “Code 3” from the field whenever the patient would be taken to Blake Medical Center. This enables the Stroke Team to assemble and diagnostic scanners to be cleared—all before the patient has even arrived at the Emergency Room.

The result was that stroke patients taken to Blake Medical Center received faster, more efficient care, thereby reducing the risk of death and disability from stroke. In October of 2005, Blake Medical Center was awarded Primary Stroke Center certification by the Joint Commission. Since then, the program also received several awards from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® program, the most recent being the 2009 Stroke Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award.
“With a stroke, time lost is brain lost, and the Get With The Guidelines–Stroke Gold Plus Performance Achievement Award demonstrates our commitment to being one of the top hospitals in the country for providing aggressive, proven stroke care,” said Daniel Friedrich, president and chief executive officer at Blake Medical Center.  “We will continue with our focus on providing care that has been shown in the scientific literature to quickly and efficiently treat stroke patients with evidence-based protocols,” 
“Blake Medical Center is to be commended for its commitment to implementing standards of care and protocols for treating stroke patients,” said Lee H. Schwamm, M.D., chair of the Get With The Guidelines National Steering Committee and director of the TeleStroke and Acute Stroke Services at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  “The full implementation of acute care and secondary prevention recommendations and guidelines is a critical step in saving the lives and improving outcomes of stroke patients.” 
“Today we are celebrating the tremendous accomplishments we’ve made in improving the care and treatment of stroke patients in our community.” said Friedrich.

 “Having the privilege to serve as Medical Director for the Neuroscience department at Blake has allowed me to work with an exceptional group of people caring for stroke in our community,” said Dr. Francisco Esparza, neurologist and medical director of the stroke program at Blake Medical Center,  “We witness firsthand the impact that time has for our patients, with gratifying results in treating them effectively.  Truly time matters when it comes to saving the brain which, more than anything, makes us who we are.”