Vince Griffin was brushing his teeth and getting ready for work on April 17 when his hand started to go numb.
The 32-year-old Conway resident works as an illustrator in Little Rock, and he assumed his carpal tunnel syndrome was acting up again.
He made it to the couch as more perplexing symptoms developed.
“He’s had blood sugar issues in the past,” said Kelly King, Conway Regional wound care specialist and nurse, a friend of Griffin’s who came to his rescue that morning. “His speech was slurred ... He couldn’t put his shoes on or stand up. I called 911.”
Griffin remembers pieces of April 17, sitting on his couch, a doctor on a monitor next to his hospital bed, and being loaded in a helicopter.
Griffin’s memories are hazy, but he’ll always remember the date as the day he experienced an ischemic stroke.
Griffin’s ER nurse that day was Bryan Martin.
Martin explained that Griffin had a clot or blockage impeding blood flow in his brain. It was a rare occurrence for a younger man.
Today Griffin shows no sign of a stroke, and he had limited to no resulting deficits to overcome as many do with extensive therapy.
Many stroke victims live with the deficits for the rest of their lives.
Griffin’s nurse and the hospital’s trauma coordinator, Tim Vandiver, said Griffin received tissue plasminogen activator, or t-PA, a drug that dissolves blood clots.
While the drug was effective in Griffin’s case, it cannot always be administered to stroke victims.
Hemorrhagic stroke, or bleeding stroke, victims are not candidates for the drug, and neither are ischemic, or blocking, stroke victims who have waited too long to be seen by a doctor.
There’s a narrow window of about 3.5 hours when ischemic stroke victims can be helped by t-PA, according to Martin and Vandiver.
That’s why it is important to know the symptoms of a stroke and respond appropriately.
Conway Regional is a part of the AR SAVES, Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support, system, a state system for rural hospitals to connect to specialists in larger hospitals in metro areas.
Griffin remembers a doctor on a monitor that day because a stroke neurologist was virtually diagnosing him with an ischemic stroke and recommending the t-PA drug that would restore his brain functioning.
“I feel very fortunate for all the circumstances that led to today,” Griffin said. “If Kelly would not have come over … Everything just worked how it should. Having a stroke, I was lucky to have that program and the drug available, along with the ability to be air lifted to receive more treatment at UAMS.”
Griffin received t-PA within an hour of being transported to Conway Regional.
When ischemic stroke victims wait too long to receive a diagnosis, the clot can solidify and is too strong for the t-PA.
Vandiver, leader of Conway Regional’s stroke education program, said the following are symptoms of a stroke and signs to seek medical attention immediately: slurred speech, weakness in one extremity or the other, facial drooping, tingling in extremities, changes in consciousness and awareness, and inability to hold a conversation.
Vandiver said the AR SAVES partnership and the t-PA drug were not in place a year ago.
“Without it, he’d have lifelong deficits,” Vandiver said.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236, or on Twitter @Courtneyism. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)