AUGUSTA, Ga.-- "Stroke Belt" or "Stroke Alley" is a name given to a 9-state region in the southeastern United States that has been recognized by public health authorities for having an unusually high incidence of stroke: Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama,Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.
That's why a medical breakthrough... available right here at the Medical College of Georgia... is such a big deal. Neurologist Dr. David Hess, Dean of the medical college, calls it "the biggest deal ever" in stroke treatment.
Take for example Dr. Edward Mendoza, a neurologist who had a stroke at 7:00am July 26th.... and walked out of the hospital at noon on July 28th.
"My wife said that I kinda turned around and slumped over."
Two months before Edward Mendoza turned 71, he had a massive stroke. Fortunately, his wife knew just what to do.
"She went right up and called 911 and the first responders were there, I don't know what time."
But we do: the ambulance arrived at the Medical College of Georgia at 9am on July 26th. That's when MCG's Endovascular services went into action.
Dr. Scott Rahimi is the director. He is also a neurosurgeon.
"The patient comes to our emergency room and gets transported to the room where we do these procedures."
The procedure is a Thrombectomy... and it's a game changer.
Mendoza was paralyzed and unable to speak after his stroke.
"Within about 18 hours I was completely able to talk and function and everything."
And here's why: this computerized image of Mendoza's brain show the clot, and the damage it's causing because the blood flow is blocked.
"Every minute that passes you lose about one million brain cells."
Thrombectomy enables surgeons to remove the clot.
"While you're going into the clot where you deposit that net-like stent and pull the clot out. The blue arrow is highlighting the area of the brain where there is no blood, then on the post there are many blood vessels going to that region and without removing that clot that entire area of the brain would have a massive stroke. It would be dead brain, non-functioning brain."
This is the clot Dr. Ramini's team pulled from Mendoza.
"You saw the patient in the emergency so devastated.. a year ago we couldn't have helped. They may not have survived, or certainly would have had their life permanently changed. And then they leave the hospital two days later as if nothing happened."
And on July 28th, Dr. Mendoza WALKED out of the hospital.
Earlier this month, the Wall Street Journal reported "a breakthrough stroke treatment can save lives- if it's available"
And that's part of the issue: ensuring patients can get to a hospital with Thrombectomy technology. MCG is the only one in Georgia outside of Atlanta. That's why training is the key.
This is video from a stroke assessment class at Gold Cross headquarters ... where EMTs are learning how to spot the signs of a stroke.
Information like this forces first responders to be good investigators in the field... because time is of the essence.
Jody Stafford is a paramedic in Jefferson County, Georgia.
"We can do evaluations in the field and we can find out exactly what location of the brain the stroke is happening in, and that's a lot more knowledge that we can have. This is one of those things we can't do anything about until we get them to the hospital so it's real imperative that we get them there as fast and quick as we can."
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