“An amazing case" — how quick response and advanced treatment saved a stroke patient

November 27, 2019 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Heroes

For Elizabeth Serpe, timing was everything when she suffered a stroke on Aug. 6.

Quick action to get her to Elmhurst Hospital, along with paramedics and a medical team ready to put their training to work, played a key role in the 91-year-old Chicago woman’s recovery.

“It was a well-oiled machine,” says Serpe’s daughter, also named Elizabeth, adding that she and her mother had switched to Edward-Elmhurst Health for medical care about a year before the stroke. “It was unbelievable how organized they were … it was seamless, it was like time stood still.”

Elizabeth and her mother, who live together in Chicago, were out to lunch in the suburbs that afternoon when her mother got up to use the restroom. When Elizabeth went to check on her, she could see her mother had collapsed in the restroom stall.

“I could see she was having a stroke,” Elizabeth recalls.

As Lombard Fire Department paramedics Robert Blockinger, Adam Bonnan, Chris Brasile, Timothy Gorvett and Maris Hovee rushed Serpe to Elmhurst Hospital, they were able to send a photograph of Serpe’s license to Emergency Room medical staff, who then used that to pull up her medical records. Doctors and nurses met Serpe and the paramedics at the ER door, completed a quick assessment and promptly sent her for a CT scan after noticing initial signs of stroke.

That was the first critical step.

Within 59 minutes of her arrival, Serpe underwent a CT scan, doctors administered a clot-busting drug (alteplase) and she was out the door on her way to Edward Hospital's Neurointerventional Lab, where Edward neurointerventionalist Dr. Michael Hurley performed a thrombectomy to remove the clot in her brain.

When paramedics first brought Serpe in to Elmhurst Hospital’s Emergency Room, she scored a 27 on the stroke scale (anything over a 21 is considered severe). By the time she was en route to Edward Hospital, her score decreased to a 21, and when she left the hospital four days later to head to Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital, her score was a 2.

“She walked out of here almost identical to what she was before she had the stroke,” says Michele Gobber, DNP, RN, SCRN, CNL, CCRN-K, stroke coordinator at Elmhurst Hospital. “Overall, an amazing case.”

She noted the quick response of family, paramedics and hospital staff played a critical role in Serpe’s recovery. Some highlights of her treatment include:

  • CT scan started within first 10 minutes of her arrival at the ER. Stroke centers aim to have that done within the first 20 minutes.
  • CT scan read within 23 minutes of her arrival. Goal is to have it read in under 40 minutes.
  • Alteplase administered within 33 minutes of her ER arrival. Stroke centers aim for a time of less than 45 minutes.

“We spend time going through drills and making sure everyone knows what to do so that we can get the care to the patient as fast as possible in the absolute safest way possible,” Gobber says, noting the stroke team regularly undergoes training.

Serpe’s overall health worked in her favor as well. Both Emergency Department Medical Director and ER physician Dr. Karl Vos and paramedics recognized that though Serpe was in her 90s, she was in good health overall, Gobber says.

Catching the stroke quickly also played a critical role, she says. In many cases, patients cannot pinpoint when the stroke occurred; particularly if it occurred during sleep time and the patient awoke with symptoms later. Since Serpe was out to lunch with her daughter, they caught the stroke almost immediately.

“The sooner you can get to treatment the better your chances are,” Gobber says.

Serpe has since returned home but continues to undergo some speech therapy on an outpatient basis. Her daughter remains glad that she switched to Elmhurst-Edward Health.

“I feel like I’m in the right place,” Elizabeth says, adding that everyone involved in her mother’s care has been helpful and attentive.

“They were all treating me like a princess,” the elder Serpe adds. “They were wonderful.”

Know the signs of stroke and remember BE FAST when checking for signs of stroke:

  • Balance. Is there a sudden loss of balance or coordination?
  • Eyes. Is there sudden blurred or double vision or sudden vision trouble?
  • Face. Ask the person to smile. Is one or both sides of the face drooping?
  • Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one side drift downward or is there numbness or weakness on one side?
  • Speech. Does the person have slurred or garbled speech? Can he or she repeat simple phrases?
  • Time. Call 911 for help if you notice one or more of these symptoms and take note of when the symptoms began.

At Edward-Elmhurst Health, we strive to provide the fastest, most efficient and effective stroke care possible. Learn more about our stroke team and treatment.

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