The Red Deer Regional Hospital is one of 17 stroke treatment centres now among the fastest in the world in giving patients the clot-busting drug tPA (tissue Plasminogen Activator).
Thanks to a year-long quality improvement initiative, the average time it takes from a patient’s arrival at hospital to being diagnosed with stroke and injected with tPA (known as door-to-needle time) has been halved from about 70 minutes to 36 minutes.
During an ischemic stroke, in which blood supply to the brain is blocked, about two million brain cells die every minute and about 12 kms of neural connections are lost, officials have said.
A patient who has had a stroke relies on the efforts of a team, which includes paramedics, emergency department nurses, registration clerks, diagnostic imaging technicians, stroke coordinators, emergency department physicians, radiologists and neurologists. Behind-the-scenes support from hospital administrators and managers in the emergency and diagnostic imaging departments is also critical.
The tPA is injected via an IV treatment and it finds the clot causing the stroke and dissolves it. Officials say on average, about four patients a month are given tPA at the hospital in Red Deer.
Shelley Castor was in a Red Deer bank last April when she started to feel dizzy and noticed her left hand and arm going limp. Her husband sped to the hospital where nurses got Castor into a wheelchair and then began swarming around her in a trauma room.
“I knew right away I was having a stroke,” Castor recalls. “I kept saying over and over, ‘I have an 11-year-old daughter at home who needs her mother – I don’t want to die.’”
She added within a number of hours after receiving the medication she was able to move her left hand, which was affected by the stroke. The following morning, Castor said she felt her face begin to go back to normal after drooping.
“It was because of the tPA drug. It is amazing.”
Neurologist Dr. Jennifer Bestard and the stroke team at Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre treated Castor with tPA in 23 minutes – not only saving her life but making a near full recovery possible.
“The team was truly joyous because we had been able to do it so quickly,” she said. “Her outcome is exact proof of why we want to make this such an important message.”