Event at gym aims to raise stroke awareness

The gym provides CPR and AED training and has a heightened concern about stroke because it has a number of older people who exercise at its branches

By Tom Corwin
The Augusta Chronicle

AUGUSTA, Ga. — The man had tumbled from his exercise machine Monday at the Wilson Branch of the Family Y of Greater Augusta and now paramedic Adam Borchik was crouched beside him, asking questions.

"Smile for me real big, show me all of your teeth," Borchik said.

He asked the man to repeat a simple phrase, "You can't teach an old dog new tricks." Then Borchik asked him to squeeze each hand, which he could not do with the right, nor could he hold up his right arm for 10 seconds when asked.

"We're going to take you to a stroke center," Borchik told him as he was loaded onto a stretcher and taken to Doctors Hospital of Augusta, the nearest stroke center to the Y on Wheeler Road.

Fortunately, the patient was Dean Beasley, the director of inpatient rehabilitation for Doctors, and he was only simulating a stroke to help raise awareness about stroke symptoms. May is Stroke Awareness Month.

The regimen Borchik used to check for symptoms of a stroke is often referred to as FAST - short for face drooping, arm weakness, speech slurring, time to call 911.

Stroke is a concern for the Family Y, which last week saw one of its instructors at its Augusta South facility suffer one during a class, said Katie Duncan, the vice president of marketing.

"She started slurring her words and said she had a headache," so class members called 911, Duncan said. "This does hit home for us, and we need to make sure all of our staff are prepared."

The Family Y provides CPR and automatic defibrillator training to managers and has a heightened concern about stroke because it has a number of older people who exercise at its branches, she said.

Though the Food and Drug Administration allows a three-hour window to administer a clot-busting drug for stroke patients, the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association say it can be given up to 4½ hours after a stroke begins.

The faster patients get treated, the better off they are likely to be, said Dr. David Hess, the dean of the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University and a stroke researcher.

"If you can treat it in under an hour, your outcome is much better than if you are treated at two hours," Hess said. "It declines by the minute your chance of a good recovery, so the earlier the treatment the better."

Though the goal used to be getting the patient treated within an hour of arrival at the hospital, that now is down to 45 minutes and keeps getting quicker, Hess said.

"We're trying to shave every minute that we can," he said.

Doctors and University hospitals are both Primary Stroke Centers, but AU Medical Center is an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center that can also offer therapies such as mechanical extraction of a clot from large blood vessels in the brain up to six hours after onset of a stroke.

A study last week at a European stroke meeting found those interventions in a subset of patients can actually extend the treatment window from six to 24 hours.

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