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By Frank Parlato Jr.

Niagara County's first New York State-designated stroke center, Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center, will hold a series of community events to promote stroke awareness and prevention in May. Headlining the series will be "Time Lost is Brain Lost: Preventing and Treating Stroke." The free event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Saturday, May 14, at Niagara Catholic High School, 520 66th St., Niagara Falls.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and a leading cause of disability in America, yet the American Stroke Association says many people do not realize how educating themselves and others will help reduce the incidence of stroke.

The May 14 event will emphasize stroke education and include presentations by three members of Memorial's medical staff: Dr. Nyathappa Anand, the stroke center's medical director; Dr. Anita Chaudhuri of the Diabetes and Endocrinology Center of Niagara; and Dr. Mohamed Ibrahim, a vascular surgeon. This free event also will feature Wegmans healthy cooking demonstrations, health screenings, door prizes, refreshments and vendor exhibits.

Other scheduled events include a luncheon presentation, "Time Lost is Brain Lost," by Dr. Anand on Thursday, May 19, at 11:30 a.m., at the Crestwood Commons Patio Homes and Apartments Community Center, 2600 Niagara Falls Boulevard, Wheatfield. Call 278-4604 to register.

Stroke education and awareness presentations with health screenings will occur on the following six dates at these locations: Tuesday, May 10, at noon, Spallino Towers, 720 10th St.; Wednesday, May 11, at noon, Wrobel Towers, 800 Niagara Ave.; Thursday, May 12, at 10 a.m., Calvin K. Richards Senior/Youth Activity Center, Veterans Memorial Park, 7000 Lockport Road, Town of Niagara; Tuesday, May 17, at 11 a.m., LaSalle Senior Center, 9501 Colvin Boulevard; Wednesday, May 18, at 11 a.m., Community Outreach Center, Pierce Avenue and 18th Street; Tuesday, May 24, at 11 a.m., John Duke Senior Center, 1201 Hyde Park Boulevard. All events are free. The public is invited.

Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center was designated as a stroke center by the New York State Department of Health in December 2009. The designation is part of a statewide effort to improve quality health care to stroke patients through enhanced policies, protocols, rapid evaluation and treatment.

For information about these and other events, call 278-4569 or visit NFMMC.org.

What are the symptoms of a stroke?

In the first of our of series of questions and answers on stroke awareness, the Reporter asked Dr. Nyathappa Anand, Memorial's neurologist, and Claudia Moulden, the hospital's stroke nurse.

Q: What symptoms should people look for if they think they are having a stroke?

Dr. Anand: The onset is sudden. Weakness in one side, trouble seeing or double vision, trouble with their speech, confusion, worst headache of their life. So they have to call 911 immediately.

Even if they are close, do not drive.

The good thing about calling 911 is they can check their blood pressure right away and check their sugar too. If it is sugar, all they need is sugar to get better.

The other thing is they call the ER and say this is a stroke patient, we are getting a stroke patient. The ER is ready for the patient. Just imagine: Nobody calls and we don't know the patient is coming. You always take time to get triaged and for the ER doctor to see you, and that always takes a couple of minutes. So it is important for them to call 911.

The other thing is to educate the patient's family. A lot of patients live alone and they don't even know how to call 911 because they are confused. So, if there is a family member or neighbor who knows, they can call 911 and they can get attention very quickly. So the answer to your question is, anything sudden!

Ms. Moulden: The patient has to be aware of any sudden confusion, difficulty speaking, weakness or numbness on one side, the worst, severe headache of your life, difficulty with balance or coordination, anything like that. That is what we want to get out to the community, to call 911 if you experience any of these right away.

With the relationship with EMS we've done some great training with them. Once they get that call, like I'm having a stroke, they know to get them in here right away.

They go right up to CT scan immediately, they don't stop for anybody. We get a call in-house, a Stroke Page we have, and we are right in the ER waiting for them when they get back from CT scan.

Once that patient is admitted, they have the CT scan, by the time they come down we know the results. Dr. Anand and I are there to assess the patient. From there we admit them.

Even if the patient is a TIA (transient ischemic attack), if it has come and it's gone away, we still are aggressive because these are the ones you really have to watch before they proceed into a full-blown stroke. We keep them for 24-hour observation and they receive the same care as a stroke.

We do the labs, we do the diagnostic tests, like a carotid Doppler, a carotid echogram, things of that nature, to try to find the cause of it.

We also provide the patient education, we give the patient booklets, and if rehab is needed it can be started immediately on the floor and can be followed up at discharge.

From discharge, if they go to rehab, and once they get discharged from rehab, they follow up with Dr. Anand in the office.

Hopefully, they won't have any more difficulties, because our goal is to educate and prevent any further complications, or any further stroke.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com May 10, 2011