Habersham Medical Center recently received a statewide award for its care of stroke patients. The medical center was one of only 10 health systems or hospitals in Georgia to be awarded the Georgia Coverdell Acute Stroke Registry Door to Needle Time Award of Excellence for achieving the 20 percent decrease goal in the time stroke patients enter the hospital and receive thorough evaluation and treatment.

“This award shows our commitment to providing the best stroke care possible,” says Teri Newsome, Habersham Medical Center’s vice president of quality management and a member of the Habersham Medical Center stroke team. “Every three minutes, someone in America dies of a stroke. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer.”

“One of the confusing things about stroke is that its symptoms – such as slurred speech, dizziness, numbness and altered vision – may be relatively mild. Many times with a stroke,” adds Newsome, “people are waiting hours before they seek treatment thinking the symptoms will go away. For every second a person waits without seeking treatment, brain cells are lost. If you think you are having a stroke, fast response is critical, so call 9-1-1 immediately.”

As patients are being transported to Habersham Medical Center’s Emergency Department by ambulance, paramedics begin life-saving treatment and signal to the Emergency Department staff that a stroke victim is in route. At Habersham Medical Center, a Code Stroke is called and the stroke team activates and clears the CT Scanner, where the patient is rushed upon arrival.

“Within minutes, our diagnosticians analyze the patient’s CT scan of the brain to ensure there is no internal bleeding and begin treatment. If the stroke is caused by a blood-clot, the patient may be a candidate for the clot-dissolving drug Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA).

But tPA must be administered within three hours of a stroke or the risk of hemorrhage becomes greater,” says Newsome.

The award and program are named in honor of the late United States Senator Paul Coverdell of Georgia, who died of a massive stroke while in office in 2000. The Coverdell Acute Stroke Registry has identified 60 minutes as the “golden hour” that hospitals evaluate and determine treatment for stroke patients.