2017-05-18 / Front Page

REACH, clot-busters get Thornton back to work


GENE AND CAROLINE THORNTON GENE AND CAROLINE THORNTON Thanks to the REACH Telestroke program implemented within Wills Memorial Hospital, Wilkes County native Gene Thornton encountered life-saving technology after he suffered a stroke on February 26, and was rushed to the hospital for care – making May’s designation as “National Stroke Awareness Month” all-the-more of an impact on local lives.

“That morning Gene came to me and said he was numb all down his left side,” his wife Caroline Thornton said. “I knew immediately that is was a stroke and we had to get to the hospital quickly.”

Thornton suffered an ischemic stroke, but the Wills Memorial telestroke team was prepared for such an emergency, and used the REACH technology to connect with a neurologists at Augusta University, allowing for immediate observation of Thornton.

“They got us hooked up with the lead doctor at Augusta University, and they asked me lots of questions,” his wife said.

After examining Thornton’s CT scan, experts at Augusta University determined that he had an ischemic stroke, which allowed for instruction to be imparted to the Wills Memorial staff for his care.

Thornton was injected with tPA – a clot-dissolving treatment that allows the blood to begin flowing to the brain – and after he was stabilized, he was then transferred by air to Augusta University for further care.

The REACH program utilizes a monitor that conducts a two-way camera system, allowing the emergency room staff to communicate with Augusta University Hospital neurologists for patient care.

“These neurologists can see the patient in our ER and the patient can see the neurologist, so it provides a real face-to-face evaluation of the potential stroke patient by a neurologist,” WMH Director of Nursing Angie Radford explained. “The ER staff assists in the evaluation following the directions of the neurologist, as well as entering vital information into the computer system.

“The neurologist can view entered information as well as the CT scan results immediately after being done, and the neurologist uses the combination of the CT results and this evaluation of the patient to make a decision regarding giving the clot-busting medication,” Radford said.

“Kelly Crookham, Christina Crookham, and Dr. Robert Williams were on it, so we couldn’t ask for better care,” Thornton included. “Gene had a stroke on Sunday and was back to work on Friday.”

Recently, Thornton underwent physical therapy at Wills Memorial, but has been reported as “feeling much better.”

“Thank God we have Wills Memorial,” Thornton said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), stroke is the fifth leading cause of death for Americans and the leading cause of long-term disability. The CDC further asserts that 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic and can be treated with the tPA injection.

As a part of National Stroke Awareness month, several associations are alerting the public of stroke symptoms. According to the American Stroke Association, symptoms of stroke include sudden numbness in the face, arms, or legs, as well as on one side of the body; sudden confusion and trouble speaking; sudden trouble seeing; sudden trouble walking; and sudden severe headaches with no known cause.

Representatives with Wills Memorial consider the entity especially lucky since it’s able to provide the community with REACH technology. “It is a wonderful asset that Augusta University provides for many rural hospitals that don’t have access to a neurologist,” Radford said.

Thanks to REACH, Wills Memorial Hospital has consulted 24 stroke patients in the last 16 months, and out of that number, 10 were administered the tPA “clot buster” injection, Community Relations Director Susan D. Pope further reported.

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