Omaha, Neb. – From the moment you walk into an Emergency Department to the time you leave rehabilitation, Alegent Health helps stroke patients like no one else. It is one of the reasons the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JACHO), certified all five Alegent Health metro area hospitals in stroke care.
Consumers can be confident that a hospital with stroke certification can accurately diagnose this problem and give them the appropriate treatment to save them from long-term illness, says Jeffry L. Strohmyer, M.D., a family practice physician and medical director of Alegent Health Midlands Hospital.
If you think you’re having a stroke, call 911 and get to a hospital fast, advised Dr. Strohmyer. “Don’t sit and worry about it - time is of the essence. If we can get the right medications to the right person within three hours, they may be completely spared from the consequences of a stroke. If you wait for even 6 to 12 hours to get help it’s too late; the damage has been done,” he said.
“That’s what makes stroke certification critical,” said Dr. Strohmyer. “This means our Emergency Departments are able to quickly handle strokes or ‘brain attacks’ with specific protocols, in the same way as we manage heart attacks.”
The Joint Commission awarded Primary Stroke Center accreditation to Alegent Health Mercy Hospital in Council Bluffs, Iowa, Alegent Health Midlands Hospital in Papillion, and Alegent Health Bergan Mercy Medical Center, Alegent Health Immanuel Medical Center and Alegent Health Lakeside Hospital in Omaha. Additionally, the metropolitan area Alegent Health Emergency Departments are accredited Chest Pain Centers.
“A stroke can be more devastating than any illness that you can have,” Dr. Strohmyer said. “It’s a time-sensitive process. We have to move fast in coordinating with the nurses, lab, radiology, physicians and techs - we all have to be on the same page.”
Time is brain, says Blanca L. Marky, M.D., neurologist with Alegent Health Clinic in Council Bluffs.
“Those first few hours of stroke are critical – the sooner you start the recovery process, the better it is going to be for our patient,” said Dr. Marky. “When the stroke alarm goes off, we all know that we are on the time constraint - if we are going to be successful everyone has to run. Within 40 minutes we do everything - the whole screening with diagnostics, then begin therapy.”
Gaby Hartman, of Council Bluffs, tried to wait out what she thought was a migraine, but ended up in the Mercy Hospital Emergency Department. She was diagnosed with a stroke and admitted to the hospital, where she had surgery.
“They explained everything they were doing in great detail, every step of the way, 24 hours a day,” said Kris Hartman, Gaby’s husband. “There was never any question about treatment or medications being prescribed. They really put our minds at ease.”
Gaby experienced the full spectrum of stroke care at Alegent Health, following her Emergency Department visit and hospital stay with a week of inpatient care at Immanuel Medical Center in Omaha.
“They keep you busy, and I really like that because it made the day go faster,” said Gaby. “They have a schedule – you’re up at 7 a.m., dressed, have breakfast, physical therapy for an hour, then a break, then you have speech therapy.
The risk factors for stroke are very similar to heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol or any history of stroke or heart disease and tobacco use. The most common symptoms of stroke are slurred or slowed speech, or weakness in the arm or leg, noted Dr. Strohmyer.
Stroke care at Alegent Health is distinguished by two elements: quick access to care at several locations and care that is coordinated from the Emergency Department to inpatient care to rehabilitation.
“A big advantage for Alegent is our incredible rehabilitation capacity,” said Dr. Strohmyer. “Immanuel has some of the best outcomes of rehab anywhere. They do an outstanding job.”
Since the Immanuel Rehabilitation Center is part of the Alegent Health system, patients can have a quicker start to rehabilitation, a shorter hospital stay and better outcomes, said Jill Powers, operations leader for Rehabilitation Services at Immanuel.
“It’s a coordinated program in which all team members are talking to one another,” said Powers. “We have smooth patient handoffs from one level of care to the other. “Physiatrists (rehabilitation physicians) consult with the patient while they are still in the acute hospital, do an evaluation and get rehab started.”
Powers noted that the rehabilitation center is accredited by CARF, the Commission on Accreditation of Rehab Facilities as a Stroke Specialty Program so there is a high level of focus on patient outcomes and quality care throughout the Alegent Health system.
“With the opening our new outpatient rehab center at Immanuel, we have invested in innovative rehab technology for stroke patients, including rehabilitation of balance deficits, visual-perceptual retraining and motor recovery,” she said.
Each year about 700,000 people experience a new or recurrent stroke, which is the nation’s third leading cause of death. On average, someone suffers a stroke every 45 seconds and someone dies of a stroke every 3.1 minutes. Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the United States, with about 4.7 million stroke survivors alive today.
Alegent Health is the largest not-for-profit, faith-based healthcare system in Nebraska and southwestern Iowa with 10 hospitals, more than 100 sites of service, over 1,300 physicians on its medical staff and 9,000 employees. That exceptional commitment to providing patient focused care for the body, mind and spirit of every person keeps Alegent Health faithful to its Mission, which was inspired by its sponsors, Catholic Health Initiatives and Immanuel Health Systems. At Alegent Health, patients and their families find a continuum of care, from women's and children's services, primary care, wellness counseling, and senior care to cardiovascular services, orthopedics, oncology, physical rehabilitation and behavioral health. Alegent Health is online at www.alegent.com.