Better stroke care at GRMC earns distinction

Betty Jo Jackson, 81, who had a stroke Sunday, is checked by Georgia Regents Medical Center stroke program coordinator Holly Hula. Jackson's treatment began immediately after arriving.

Stopping for fast food in Au­gusta might have greatly improved the care Betty Jo Jackson received for her stroke.


Her family, from Hartsville, S.C., was on the way home Sunday from a birthday party when they decided to pull into a Wendy’s restaurant off Interstate 20.

Jackson, 81, fell after she got out. Grandson Corey Lewis immediately noticed the left side of her mouth was drooping and called for an ambulance.

She arrived at Georgia Regents Medical Center, which just earned an Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center designation from the Joint Commission. It is the only hospital in Georgia with the distinction and one of only 17 nationwide, according to the commission’s Web site.

The designation came after a “rigorous” two-day survey, said Dr. David Hess, the chairman of the Department of Neurol­ogy at Georgia Regents Univer­sity.

Centers have to show they provide certain levels of service, such as giving a clot-busting drug to at least 25 patients a year, having a wide array of sophisticated imaging available and having the ability to do surgical and other interventions to treat more complex strokes, particularly involving bleeding into the brain.

It also means having a team available around the clock every day and the ability to treat two or more complex patients at once.

Coordination starts with the ambulance crews, and it was evident to Lewis on arrival at the medical center.

“They had a team of people waiting,” he said. “They were already abreast of the situation and care for her started immediately.”

Jackson quickly got a clot-busting drug via IV. She was later evaluated for another surgical intervention but was not a good candidate. Less than 24 hours later, she lay in bed in the Neuro­­science Intensive Care Unit.

“You picked a good place to get dizzy and have a stroke,” Registered Nurse Angelique Vowell told her.

Jackson’s not back to her old self, “but she’s a lot better than she was when we brought her here,” Lewis said.

Because she got the clot-busting drug, she has been monitored “very, very close,” said Holly Hula, the stroke program coordinator, beginning with every 15 minutes and then hourly in the ICU.

“Because if there is a change, it is going to be a very subtle change, and we want to be able to pick up on that and treat it appropriately,” Hula said. “We can catch it very quick.”

That commitment is critical to providing a higher level of care, Hess said.

“So much of it is the nursing care,” he said. “This really requires neurosurgery and neurology, neuro-critical care and nursing and (the emergency room) to work together. … That’s what it is, it’s really teamwork.”

The family considered moving Jackson to a hospital in Columbia once she is out of the ICU to be closer to home, Lewis said. But after seeing the care she is getting, they are going to stay put, he said.

“If you’ve got to suffer something like this, at least it was in an area where she can get good care,” he said.

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