For National Stroke Awareness Month, Eastern New Mexico Medical Center and local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) hosted a stroke drill.
Brooke Linthicum, ENMC director of marketing, wrote in an emailed statement that “the drill will provide insight to the community about the importance of getting medical attention quickly if you believe you are having a stroke.”
A stroke occurs when blood vessels in the brain are either blocked or burst according to a pamphlet from Intermountain Healthcare. Strokes can lead to long-term disability, and in some cases, death.
“When we work together with the EMS teams and with our flight teams, it allows us that practice to get it right — because that’s what our community deserves,” Stacey Sexton, director of education and stroke coordinator at ENMMC, said. “They deserve great care. We want to be able to provide them the care in the community. If we aren’t able to provide it here in the community, we want to make sure we’ve got great relationships with our air transport teams and accepting healthcare facilities around the area that are able to provide that level of care. But ultimately, we just want to be able to provide the best care to our patients here in the area.”
Sexton said the hospital is planning to apply for a primary stroke center designation for the area within the year, which will require meeting certain criteria and more planning. Sexton said this shows “the community our commitment to stroke care.”
Roswell Mayor Dennis Kintigh took on the role of the stroke patient inside Walmart on Wednesday afternoon. In the simulated stroke scenario, Kintigh was shopping with two of his grandkids near the souvenir shop section where he acted as though he experienced pain in his right side and complained of a headache.
Kintigh dropped to the floor clutching his arm and a Walmart store manager approached him to ask what happened. Stroke awareness literature and magnets were provided to the Walmart staff for future review.
Walmart and ENMMC staff observed the appropriate procedures. Even Walmart shoppers halted to witness the drill and staff members explained the drill, while talking about stroke awareness.
A Walmart associate called 911 when her manager observed signs of a stroke and she ushered Kintigh’s grandkids to a safe location. The manager continued to sit with Kintigh asking him questions, encouraging him to take deep breaths and to remain calm.
Upon arriving at the scene, EMS staff from the Roswell Fire Department and Superior Ambulance treated Kintigh as though the situation was real. Via ambulance, Kintigh was transported to ENMMC for further review. It took seven minutes from the time 911 was called to bring Kintigh to the hospital.
RFD Lt. Paramedic Daniel Fuller said EMS staff conducts a whole assessment of a patient, including airway breathing, circulation, full vital signs and mental state.
“For me, I do my very best to treat them as family,” Fuller said about patients in transit. “If my mother or my wife was going to be worked on, I want to treat my patients just as they would be treated. So everything is kind and courteous. I want them to be as least anxious (as) they can be, so the less anxious a patient — the better for us …”
Throughout the drill, Kintigh maintained character as he was distressed and asking for his wife and grandchildren. He said he was given basic instructions about the drill and acted out symptoms of weakness on the right side and drooling.
Dr. Tom Wulf and ENMMC staff assisted Kintigh further. He had a mock computerized tomography (CT) scan and then the staff used Net Medical Express, a teleneurology service, to allow a neurologist to interview Kintigh.
Sexton explained this service provides a higher level of care for patients since there isn’t a neurologist at ENMMC or surrounding areas. She said the hospital has seen an increase in the teleneurology consults over the last year.
Kintigh was “given” medication and then escorted by Air Methods staff to be airlifted in a helicopter. Kintigh said it was his first time in a helicopter despite being a pilot. The particular care flight 23 aircraft was called the “Screaming Alien.”
“This was an interesting exercise to be on the receiving end,” Kintigh said. “I’ve been in emergency rooms over the years from the law enforcement perspective — never been a patient — and it’s very different … a lot of people trying to take care of you, it’s awesome.”
Sexton said Kintigh received appropriate care in 46 minutes from arriving at the hospital doors to being airlifted.
From the drill, Sexton and Fuller emphasized how crucial it is for community members to call 911 if they witness a stroke and to be educated on the signs and symptoms of strokes.
BE FAST is an acronym to assess possible stroke symptoms.
• Balance difficulties.
• Eyesight changes.
• Face weakness.
• Arm weakness.
• Speech difficulties.
• Time to call 911.
Other symptoms of a stroke include the following: confusion, difficulty understanding, dizziness, loss of balance, numbness, severe headache, speech difficulties, trouble walking, vision changes and weakness. For more information, visit overreact2stroke.com.
City/RISD reporter Alison Penn can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at email@example.com.