Despite the fact that stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, taking the lives of 130,000 people every year, Mary Alice Stam is a stroke success story, thanks to a friend who knew how to identify the signals and the rapid response from stroke experts at the Robert D. Rogers Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center of the University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center.
When it comes to stroke treatment, time is crucial to enable recovery and even survival. Mary Alice Stam, who is 77 years old, was showing classic symptoms of the condition when she arrived at the UT center, including slurred speech, dwindling eyesight, and incapacity to move the left side. Stroke specialists at the Robert D. Rogers Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center used an innovative stenting procedure to place a mesh tube in the artery and restore blood flow to the brain.
“With stroke, time equals brain,” explained in a press release the vascular neurologist Mark J. Alberts, who is a professor and vice-chair of Clinical Affairs of Neurology and Neurotherapeutics at UT Southwestern. “We call it the ‘Golden Three Hours.’ If we can get to the patient early in the stroke, we have a vastly improved chance of making a difference.”
Due to the novel procedure, called endovascular rescue therapy (ERT), which improves patients’ ability to fully recover and prevent future disability when performed during the first six hours after the stroke, Mrs. Stam recovered and is cognitively alert and able to walk. “They say I’m a rock star,” she said. “I’m sure glad to be here.”
Mrs. Stam was all by herself at the Sparger Park in Colleyville when she found a friend, Ellie Raj, who recalls that “I was walking through the park and I stopped to chat with Mary Alice. I noticed some of what she was talking about was garbled.” Despite the fact that Mrs. Stam is a retired professor of nursing, she wasn’t able to identify the stroke symptoms in herself, something that Mrs. Raj managed to do.
The longtime friend told Mrs. Stam to sit, and as she took off her gardening gloves, the lack of strength in the left hand was visible. Mrs. Raj immediately called the 911, which may have determined her friend’s recovery. Despite the fact that she was first taken to a nearby hospital in Grapevine, after performing a CT scan, the physicians called the UT Southwestern’s stroke hotline, which was created by a collaboration between The Joint Commission and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
The UT Southwestern University Hospital is currently the only comprehensive stroke center in North Texas to be certified by the AHA/ASA/Joint Commission. The facility has a multidisciplinary cerebrovascular program that includes leading neurologists, neuroradiologists and neurosurgeons with vascular, endovascular and critical-care expertise for the treatment of all types of strokes and blood-vessel conditions that affect the brain and spinal cord.
The team that treated Mrs. Stam was comprised of Dr. Alberts, who conducted the initial phone consultation, as well as the interventional neuroradiologist Dr. Lee Pride, who is a professor of Radiology and Neurological Surgery, and the specially trained, advanced practice stroke nurse Amanda Dirickson. Thanks to the efforts of the team, the neurosurgeons initiated the ERT procedure only half an hour after Mrs. Stam’s arrival at the center.
“It was a great team effort,” said Dr. Alberts, who participated in the development of national criteria for primary and comprehensive stroke centers. “The fast actions of her friends and family, and the Grapevine professionals in getting her here quickly, as well as the speed and efficiency of our team here at Zale Lipshy University Hospital gave her the best chance of having a good recovery and resuming her active and fulfilling life-style.”