Standing around a bed in the Redwood Area Hospital emergency room a team of medical professionals quickly works through a protocol asking questions of the patient in an effort to determine whether or not the individual is facing what has been called the leading cause of adult disability – a stroke.
"If it looks like we are rushing, its because we are," said Louise Anderson, a registered nurse at the hospital who oversees the hospital's telestroke program. "The faster we respond the more brain tissue we are able to save."
While the hospital has staff in place to help the patient experiencing a stroke, it also needs additional advice as the diagnosis is made.
In the past, that often meant calling up a neurologist halfway across the state and talking with them over the phone.
While over-the-phone descriptions can be effective, having that neurologist see the patient can enhance the chance of getting the best diagnosis.
While the neurologist is still miles away, new technology the hospital has added means the neurologist can be in the room without physically being there.
While technology like this has been available to the local hospital, it recently received some new equipment that is even more advanced.
That equipment came as part of a changeover the hospital made that now has it working with North Memorial Hospital on stroke care.
No, said Jo Kremin, Redwood Area Hospital acute nurse manager and registered nurse, there was no issue with those who were providing the services in the past.
For the hospital it is always about getting the best it possibly can for those being served.
According to Kremin, the monitor technology the hospital is now going to be utilizing has a zoom capability of 30X, which she said means it can focus in as closely as seeing the pupils of the patient while they are in bed.
Staff were provided some mock drill training on the equipment now being offered with the change, which An-derson said means being able to refresh those skills they use when treating a stroke patient. The drill provided a scenario that put those protocols at the hospital to the test.
The changeover has already taken place, and the hospital is ready to treat patients as they come into the emergency room.
"The new machines are here and are ready at any moment," said Kremin, adding that technology means sending information very quickly to North Memorial over the "cloud" for immediate response from the on-call neurologist.
The hospital's stroke program is available 24 hours a day seven days a week, with training given to those who are called on to help.
When the "code stroke" call comes in a stroke team at the hospital, which includes the emergency room physician, two registered nursers, lab and radiology, respond at a moment's notice.
Page 2 of 2 - Contact is then quickly made to North Memorial to get the neurologist involved as soon as is possible.
Katherine Brozek, communications manager at the local hospital said North Ambulance personnel have also had the training to determine a potential stroke patient.
On the way to the hospital EMTs can contact staff to ensure the equipment and hospital team is ready when the patient arrives.
While all of that is important, Anderson said the treatment is only as good as the patient who is experiencing a stroke.
Knowing the signs of a stroke, such as an uneven smile, facial droop, arm numbness or weakness, slurred speech or difficulty understanding, can make a big difference.
Getting treatment as soon as is possible is crucial, added Anderson, as every second can help save a life and can prevent long-term physical damage.