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Oct 29, 2018 3:58 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Stony Brook Southampton Hospital Continues Efforts Toward Stroke Awareness

Dr. Olga Mc Abee and Janet Woo, both standing in the center front, with members of the emergency medical staff at the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital. ANISAH ABDULLAH
Oct 29, 2018 3:58 PM

With World Stroke Day observed on Monday, October 29, the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital’s stroke team wants to make sure the community knows what to do when they or someone they know is having a stroke.

“Some people really don't take stroke symptoms seriously,” Director of Neurology and Stroke Director Dr. Olga McAbee said. “We really need to treat stroke patients like we treat patients with heart attacks. Stroke is a brain attack, and needs to be treated like that.”

Dr. McAbee strives to educate the local community about strokes, focusing on preventative strategies, why it is important to take stroke symptoms more seriously and how immediate action can dramatically change a victim’s life.

Since becoming stroke director of Southampton Hospital in 2013, she said she has visited local nursing homes, libraries, senior centers and the Shinnecock Reservation to share important information about strokes. She was also featured on the Southampton television station Sea-TV in an interview with Robert Chaloner, president and CEO of the hospital, in an episode titled “What You Need to Know About Stroke.”

Dr. McAbee said she will be away during the week of World Stroke Day, but is planning to give a presentation on stroke awareness upon her return at the Bishop Ryan Village senior living apartments in Hampton Bays, along with her colleague, Janet Woo, director of performance improvement and stroke coordinator.

“We have more and more patients who live here all year ’round, local residents, and it's pretty much our goal to educate them, to serve our community and to help them when they need,” the neurologist said, adding that she thinks 80 percent of strokes are preventable if people become more knowledgeable of the risk factors.

Stroke is the leading cause of disability and the second leading cause of death in the world, according to the World Stroke Organization. It is caused when either a blood vessel ruptures in the brain, called a hemorrhagic stroke, or when the blood flow to the brain is blocked from a blood clot, called an ischemic stroke.

Dr. McAbee said it is important to educate the entire community rather than just those at risk, because people who experience a stroke do not typically call for help themselves, leaving it up to loved ones or any nearby witness to recognize the symptoms and take proper action.

She said that many patients who experience symptoms of dizziness, numbness or weakness brush them off, thinking the sensation will soon go away. “Instead of calling 9-1-1, they wait, and we waste valuable time to save the brain,” she said. “I tell my patients, ‘Don't drive, don't call a taxi, you need to call 9-1-1.’”

If stroke victims wait too long to be treated, permanent brain damage or even death can occur. Dr. McAbee noted that about 2 million brain cells die every minute that the brain is deprived of blood during a stroke.

Aside from community awareness efforts, the hospital also makes sure to educate stroke patients upon discharge about ways to prevent future strokes due to the likeliness of one occurring again. The staff informs them of the risk factors—things like hypertension, high cholesterol, age, obesity, irregular heartbeat, smoking and consumption of illicit drugs like amphetamine and cocaine, among other factors—and recommends frequent exercise and a healthier diet.

Although age is a major risk factor, Dr. McAbee also wanted to correct the misconception that only elderly people get strokes. “Pretty much anyone can have a stroke at any time,” she said. “It's not just elderly people. Young people can have a stroke, also.” Ms. Woo recounted that their youngest patient was a female in her 20s who had a stroke from taking birth control pills.

The hospital has treated 79 stroke patients so far this year, compared to 156 last year and 170 in 2016, according to Ms. Woo. She and Dr. McAbee said that they receive most of their patients in the summer months due to the increased local population.

The hospital’s Audrey and Martin Gruss Heart and Stroke Center opened in 2015, benefiting from a $5 million grant, but the hospital has been Department of Health certified to practice stroke treatment since 2007.

For stroke patients, the hospital provides interventional treatment. Staff members diagnose patients and decide whether they require the administration of thrombolytics—a drug that dissolves blood clots and helps improve blood flow to the deprived area of the brain—through an IV in the arm. If surgery is needed, patients are transferred to Stony Brook University Hospital, which has a certified comprehensive stroke center and neurosurgeons on staff.

Since there is only a three-hour window to administer the drug, what they call tPA, from the onset of a patient’s symptoms, it is vital that all parties involved act quickly.

To learn more about the warning signs of stroke, visit the Stony Brook Southampton Hospital website.

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This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By SlimeAlive (1013), Southampton on Nov 4, 18 8:15 AM
This comment has been removed because it is a duplicate, off-topic or contains inappropriate content.
By cox3500 (4), Southampton on Nov 4, 18 9:33 AM