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New app, guidelines helping patients get correct stroke care faster

Colorado doctor develops app to help first responders determine stroke severity and care.png
Posted at 3:00 PM, Jun 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-03 19:18:51-04

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Patrice Thomas remembers the exact moment her stroke started. She was typing a text to her daughter when she couldn’t type the word “too.” Frustrated with herself, she decided to go to the kitchen, which meant going up three stairs.

She couldn’t do it.

“I found myself sitting on the bottom step kind of frozen and I was like, ‘Oh, what is going on?’” she remembers.

Her husband was in the house, but she couldn’t yell to get her attention so she did something she knew would let him know something was wrong – she whistled.

Patrice knew she was having a stroke. She had experience with heart issues and knew that wasn’t what was happening to her. Patrice’s husband rushed to the Swedish Southwest ER in Littleton. Staff there recognized the severity of her stroke and put her on a helicopter to the main Swedish hospital in Englewood.

“I literally was off the helicopter and into surgery within eight minutes at Swedish main,” Patrice remembers.

Any delay in care can lead to worsened outcomes when it comes to strokes. When a patient has a large vessel occlusion, where an artery in the brain is blocked, every second counts.

“That type of treatment requires a thrombectomy, which is someone like me putting a catheter up into the brain artery and pulling the clot out,” says Dr. Don Frei, the director of neuro-interventional surgery at Swedish Medical Center.

Knowing which hospitals offer what kinds of care can be difficult in an emergency. That’s why Dr. Frei helped write new national guidelines for first responders treating strokes. He even helped develop a new app for first responders to use that can help identify the type of stroke a patient is having and the nearest hospital where they can get the best care.

“If someone has major trauma, EMS knows to bring that person to a level one trauma center,” Dr. Frei explains. “If they have a severe stroke, they need to bring that patient to a level one stroke center like Swedish. But that's not in the EMS guidelines until now. “

Swedish EMS director Jordan Ourada says the guidelines and app can literally be lifesavers for patients.

“All the things that we want it to be able to do for our patients, now we actually have it at our fingertips,” Ourada adds.

Patrice says the quick decision to fly her to Swedish Medical Center and get her into surgery not only saved her life, but has led to a nearly full recovery. She says other than needing some occupational therapy for her right hand, she feels good.

“I have this much recovery because not only they were in there quickly -- they knew exactly what to do. And they were precise and amazing.”