CVMC Strokehero Goes to Capitol Hill

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Nancy Lowman, CVMC Distribution Technician

The following is an update to a story published in June 2014 in the Health First Center Newsletter, “Stroke Robot Saves Lowman

“It’s not every day that you get to go to the United States Capitol and tell lawmakers in congress about how a robot saved your life,” said Nancy Lowman, CVMC Distribution Technician. “I’m nervous, but it’s such an honor, and I see this as my chance to help others have access to life-saving technology.”

Nancy will be in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, May 20 to speak during a congressional briefing about the power of telestroke and how a partnership between CVMC and Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, NC saved her life last year. When Nancy had a stroke, the emergency medical staff in Hickory used a robot with interactive video conferencing technology to work together quickly to assess Nancy’s symptoms and make the critical decision to give her t-PA, a life-saving clot-busting medication.

Nancy and CVMC Emergency Department nurse Danielle Thurman will travel to the nation’s capitol as guests of the American Stroke Association to speak at a congressional briefing about the successful outcome Nancy experienced with the advanced technology. The goal of the briefing is to help remove barriers that rob other  patients of the same timely and effective treatment that Nancy received. Lengthy travel times to primary stroke centers and a shortage of neurologists make telemedicine partnerships an economical option that reduces long-term disabilities and death among stroke patients. The clot-busting medication, tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA), has considerably improved stroke treatment, but the medication must be administered within three hours of the onset of symptoms in order to be most effective. The drug also carries some risk and may not be appropriate for all patients.

Stroke is a leading cause of death and long-term disability and has a devastating social and economical impact across the nation. Many times when patients arrive at community hospitals, there is little or no access to neurologists or skilled stroke care experts. Telestroke offers a cost-effective way to leverage scarce professional resources and minimize the need to transfer patients to larger hospitals.

“I was told that if I had waited 30 minutes more, I would have most likely been paralyzed and the damage may have been permanent,” said Nancy.

Many stroke patients require expensive long-term rehabilitation in nursing homes. Instead, Nancy regained all functionality within 48 hours after her stroke and returned to her job at the hospital where she has worked for 20 years just two weeks later. According to an American Heart Association / American Stroke Association analysis prepared for the Congressional Budge Office, expanded use of telestroke can save federal health programs $119 million per year if lawmakers grant more access to robotic telestroke consultations and faster administering of t-PA.

“…a rolling robot topped by a video monitor rolled into the Emergency Room and Rayetta (Johnson) in Winston started examining. She could see that one side of my face was drooping, my speech was slurring and I couldn’t open my left eye. She asked me to follow some simple commands while she also could look at the brain scans the doctors in Hickory had just ordered. Then she told me that I needed the clot busting drug t-PA…”

Stroke awareness, prevention, treatment and recovery are a primary emphasis at CVMC. While fewer than 20 percent of major US hospitals are stroke certified, CVMC recently received renewal of its designation as a Primary Stroke Center by The Joint Commission that was first obtained in 2013. #telestroke; #strokehero;

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