When Stroke Strikes Twice: One Family. Two Lives Saved.
And Now, Many More… Thanks to Overlook’s New Telestroke Program
It was déjà vu all over again for 55-year-old Robert Moore. He had accompanied his wife’s Uncle“Val” to Overlook’s Emergency Department (ED) in the middle of the night after the 80-year-old man had collapsed in his bathroom. His eye drooped, he couldn’t move his left side and he was struggling to speak. Suspecting stroke, the staff began a battery of tests. As Robert stood next to Uncle Val’s bedside, he was reminded of his own experience just five years earlier in the verysame ED.
Robert had collapsed in his Chatham home and he, too, had trouble moving and speaking. Paramedics transported him to Overlook, where Shalini Bansil, M.D. a board-certified neurologist with the Comprehensive Stroke Center at Overlook Medical Center’s Neuroscience Institute,determined he was having a stroke. She explained that there was a small window of time remaining to administer tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) – a powerful medication that dissolves clots blocking brain arteries – or risk permanent disability or possibly death. Fortunately, Robert opted for the medication and was transported to Overlook’s Neurointensive Care Unit, where he regained movement and speech. He was discharged within a week and returned home with no visible side effects.
Now, Uncle Val was facing the same decision, but this time the doctor presenting the option was not even in the building. Neurologist Dr. Robert Felberg, medical director of The Stroke Center at Overlook, was talking to them via a TV monitor mounted from the ceiling. The advanced video communications technology is part of Overlook’s new Telestroke program, which allows doctors to evaluate and consult on stroke patients’ treatment quickly and remotely via software similar to Skype.
The Telestroke Program is in place at Overlook Medical Center, its satellite Emergency Department in Union, and an increasing number of the 23 hospitals who refer patients to Overlook’s regional center for stroke care. The standard course of treatment for ischemic stroke is tPA if it can be administered within 4.5 hours from the onset of the patient’s symptoms. Beyond the 4.5-hour window, or in instances when the onset of symptoms is unknown, patients may be candidates for catheter-based procedures, in which clots are removed mechanically and sometimes in conjunction with tPA.
“Time is tissue,” states Dr. Felberg. “Every minute the patient goes without treatment, two million brain cells die. Getting immediate intervention will make the difference between returning home and going to a nursing home; between returning to normal life and being permanently impaired.The Telestroke Program leverages technology so people can get high-level evaluations quickly and at their local emergency department.”
“It reminded me of the Wizard of Oz,” says Robert about Dr. Felberg’s on-screen Emergency Department consultation. “He was very friendly, poised and professional; and it felt like he was right there with us. He explained that the benefits of tPA far outweighed the risks and Uncle Val readily agreed to put his life ‘virtually’ in Dr. Felberg’s hands.”
While the approach to treatment may have been different, Robert and Val’s outcomes were the same. Like Robert, Val resumed his daily life with no physical impairment, and both men have high praise for the prompt personal attention they received at Overlook.
“Having lived in the community all of my life, I’ve seen Overlook grow from a community hospital into a large bustling medical center,” says Robert. “Throughout this evolution, the care has always been top-shelf and very personal.”
Uncle Val’s wife, Irene, agrees. “We are pleased to have Overlook in our backyard. The doctors are outstanding.”