Stroke Awareness Month

May 22, 2019

There are different strokes for different folks. For a handful of stroke survivors recently, they learned just how unique each of their strokes were and just how vital to survival it is to get the quickest and right stroke care.

On May 23, the 2nd Annual Stroke Survivors & EMS Recognition Luncheon was held at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, FL. The venue provided survivors and families with an intimate gathering and venue to share their stories as well as reunite with the stroke teams, first responders and rehabilitation staff who were personally involved with their care.

“You never know under what circumstances you are going to meet someone,” said Zeff Ross, Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of Memorial Regional Hospital.
“Each of you, the survivors, have met your care teams under life-changing conditions. Today is an opportunity to reunite and re-engage in an encouraging surrounding to celebrate positive outcomes.”

For Gisela Cata de Villiers, 75, this was a moment that she would not let pass.

“I want to thank the people of 911, the rescuers who were there for me at a moment’s notice, and the doctors and nurses here at the hospital,” she said. “I am alive today because of them. I came from Cuba not long ago, and I was a doctor. I can tell you that this would not have turned out the same way. I would have been left to die.”

Albert Davis, 21, came to the hospital suffering for days from headaches and numbing weakness on the left side of his body. He is part of an at-risk population that gives the phrase “Time is Brain” a vivid look. After assessing his symptoms, scans revealed that he had suffered an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) also known as a ruptured aneurism. Davis is among one of the at-risk populations for strokes of this type. An estimated two-thirds of aneurisms occur before age 40. Every year, about four out of every 100 people with an AVM will experience a hemorrhage. Each hemorrhage poses a 15 to 20 percent risk of death or stroke, 30 percent neurological morbidity, and 10 percent mortality.

His experience took place months ago but his positive outcome was immediate. That was months ago. Today, he traveled from his new job in Gainesville, Florida, to thank his team.

“I never expected to have something like this happen to me. There are no words that can describe my appreciation,” he said. “I am grateful to be able to move on.”

The program, held during EMS Week and Stroke Awareness Month, also served as a celebratory milestone for the recent Florida Legislative win to improve stroke care.
Also attending was Jeff Scala, Florida Legislative Assistant to Senator Lauren Book (D-District 32) to usher the celebration of the recently passed Florida Senate bill CS/CS/SB 1460: Stroke Care Centers.

Senator Book is the bill’s primary sponsor in the Florida Senate who worked with lobbyists and neurointerventionalists from around the state including Dr. Brijesh Mehta to bring attention to the need for changes in stroke care. The bill is awaiting Governor Ronald DeSantis’s signature and will take effect July 1, 2019.
“The Senate Bill 1460 as it pertains to Stroke Care is designed to modernize the Florida Stroke Care Act to ensure that Florida patients have access to the latest innovations in stroke care,” said Scala.

The bill has three main components. It updated the requirements for hospitals designated as stroke centers, as well as included references to the term and use of thrombectomy, known as  the interventional procedure of removing a blood clot (thrombus) from a blood vessel. Finally, it also requires Emergency Medical Services Directors to develop and implement transporting and rerouting protocols for people suffering from strokes.

“We know that minutes, if not seconds, count and making sure that patients get to the right place as quickly as possible will lead to better health outcomes and increase quality of life,” said Scala. “Senator Book is honored to champion this issue and work along with doctors here at Memorial Regional Hospital.”

The event hosted by Memorial Neuroscience Institute and Memorial Rehabilitation Institute of Memorial Healthcare System also brought together representatives from seven EMS organizations including Hollywood, Davie, Hallandale, Miami Dade, Miramar, Broward Sheriff’s Office and Pembroke Pines. The first responder organizations were recognized for the collaborative partnerships developed with Memorial’s stroke team since 2014 that have led to quicker stroke treatment and better outcomes for patients and Senate Bill 1460.

“It takes a village to effectively treat stroke and we are proud of the Memorial teamwork that has impacted countless lives through innovative protocols and EMS partnerships,” said Brijesh Mehta, MD, Neuorinterventional Surgeon and Medical Director of Stroke and Neurocritical Care at Memorial Healthcare System. “Today is about celebrating the outcomes of our stroke survivors by highlighting the care and dedication of the paramedics, hospital stroke team, and Rehab Institute.”