Hospital treats strokes with 'NASCAR-style pit stop' to save brain function

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - Jennipher Love and her friend Sharon Frye laugh about it today, but in January, Frye saved Love's life.

"She and I were getting ready to go to the grocery store," Love recalled. "I just felt weak, and I remember thinking that I told her, 'Don't worry about it. I'll be OK.'"

But Love was not OK. She was having a stroke. Her symptoms included right side arm weakness and the inability to talk.

Signs of a stroke include sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body, confusion, trouble speaking, dizziness, or loss of balance.

"I remember her sitting me down on the couch, and she was holding two phones," Love said. "She said she was calling my daughter in one, and calling 911 on the other one."

Paramedics rushed Love to New Hanover Regional Medical Center, where a team of six medical professions was waiting just inside the doors to diagnose and treat her stroke.

"Those doors close behind me, and they didn't take me any further than the doors, and they started working on me immediately," said Love.

"Time is brain. The faster we are, the better it's going to be for the patient," said Dr. Jeff Beecher, a neurosurgeon at NHRMC.

New Hanover Regional Medical Center now has the ability to treat strokes 24/7, 365 days a year with the addition of Beecher to their staff. Before, patients had to be transported hours away to a different hospital.

"It's very similar to a NASCAR-style pit stop if you will," Beecher said. "Where a patient comes through our door, and right away our crew is already assembled, already ready for them, and they do each their individual specific task."

The medical team assesses symptoms, tests the patient's blood and organs, and uses brain scans to search for the clot or bleed causing the stroke.

"I was calm. I figured they were doing what they could, and I was doing what I could which was lay there," said Love.

After 30 minutes, the doctors finished treating Love's stroke. Today she has no disabilities or deficits from the stroke.

"The quickness of all that, from what I understand, really makes a difference," Love said.

It's life-saving difference Love knows all too well because her father and husband also suffered from strokes.

"[My husband] was paralyzed on one side, on the right side," Love said. "He couldn't talk, and he couldn't swallow well. He wound up staying in a nursing home for a year. He refused to do any therapy so basically, he just laid there and died."

Love has a message for others suspecting a stroke: "Be quick. Immediately call somebody to come help you."

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