Code stroke

Archive, June, Month

Her job was to escort the patient to her CT. She ended up saving her brain.

Walking side by side, Kate was leading her patient back to the waiting area.

The 72-year-old patient had arrived at the McLaren Macomb emergency department that morning. The previous evening, she had fallen inside her home. She was feeling fine but thought it would be best to get herself checked out.

One of the first tests up was a CT scan — computed tomography, an imaging procedure to determine if her fall did any damage to her brain.

That’s when she met Kate, a CT technologist assistant.

“As a tech assistant, my job is just to go and get the patient and then take them back,” Kate said. “I was walking her back and just chatting with her. I asked her how she was feeling today.”

It was a friendly, everyday icebreaker question. But Kate got a surprising reply.

“My hand feels weird,” the patient said. “Is that normal?”

It caught Kate’s attention. “No, it’s not.”

The patient continued.

During that walk back from the procedure room, she said her arm went numb.

That was not normal either.

Call a code

Kate knew the signs and symptoms of a stroke, even in its earliest stages. She also knew that when it comes to strokes, time is critical.

She remembered B.E. F.A.S.T., an acronym endorsed by the American Stroke Association to recognize stroke symptoms in patients, such as arm weakness and numbness.

Calm but alerted to her patient’s symptoms, she quickly called a nurse over. “It looks like we have a code stroke.”

A “code stroke” activates the stroke team at McLaren Macomb. Quickly yet thoroughly, the team — which includes stroke-trained interventional neurologists — evaluates a patient to confirm a stroke is occurring, its type and determine a course of treatment.

Quickly, the team took the patient back for another CT scan. However, this would be a CT angiogram, which uses contrast in the vascular system to determine if there is a stroke-causing blood clot in the brain.

And there it was.

“You could clearly see it,” Kate said. “It was a complete blockage.”

Still in the emergency department, the patient was started on an IV of the clot-busting medication tPA. But her treatment would also require an interventional approach.

With the patient transported to a specially equipped imaging room, interventional neurologist Dr. Aniel Majjhoo performed a thrombectomy, a procedure in which he tunnels a catheter through the patient’s vascular system up to the stroke-causing clot and removes it.

With time and decisive decision making vital, the stroke was over soon after it started.

Quick response

“Without a doubt, a quick response to a stroke is critical for a positive outcome,” Dr. Majjhoo said. “And with this case, we definitely have Kate to thank for starting that process.”

Dr. Majjhoo describes strokes as a true medical emergency. Damage to the brain occurs with each passing second, making immediate intervention crucial.

Many of the early symptoms of a stroke are often ignored by the patient as a minor, passing discomfort.

Like all McLaren Macomb clinical professionals, Kate was taught to spot these early signs — information that is repeatedly reinforced along with other applicable clinical material to broaden everyone’s knowledge base.

The impact of that knowledge was seen that day in Kate’s observance.

Simply put by her colleague, a CT technologist, “Today, Kate saved a woman’s brain.”