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By Frank Parlato Jr.

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center is planning an intensive outreach to teach the community about Stroke awareness and stroke prevention. Numerous events will occur during May.

On May 14, Memorial will be hosting "Time Lost is Brain Lost" -- their Second Annual Stroke Awareness and Health Fair. It will be held at Niagara Catholic High School, 520 66th St., Niagara Falls, N.Y. From 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., three of Memorial's medical doctors will be making presentations. They are: neurologist Dr. Nyathappa Anand, endocrinologist Anita Chaudhuri, and vascular surgeon Mohamed Ibrahim.

In addition to the talks, Memorial will have health screenings, vendor displays, and healthy cooking demonstrations sponsored by Wegmans Supermarkets. There will be refreshments and door-prizes. It's free to the public.

Throughout the month, Community Outreach Director Charles Walker, Dr. Anand, and the hospital's stroke nurse Claudia Moulden will be holding a series of community presentations on stroke awareness and education, along with stroke screenings and blood pressure checks. Memorial is eminently qualified to teach the public on this important health issue.

Early during the last decade, the New York State Department of Health decided to make accessibility to stroke care a statewide initiative. After two years of intensive preparation, Memorial became designated by the New York State Department of Health as a Stroke Center in December 2009 -- the first in Niagara County to receive that designation.

Dr. Anand, who came to the hospital in 2008 as a trained neurologist with a fellowship in epilepsy, explained to the Reporter a little about what he means by "Time lost is brain lost" the subject of both the health fair and his discourses.

Dr. Anand said, "Before 1996, there was not good medicine to treat acute strokes -- the clotting kind, which comprises 80 percent of strokes. In 1996, a landmark study revealed that if you can give a patient TPA (Tissue Plasminogen Activator), or "clot buster," within three hours of the clotting kind of stroke, you can save the patient and dramatically reduce disabilities. ... There are benchmarks you have to follow. Like seeing the patient within 10 minutes of coming into the ER, getting the scan, certain lab tests. But in the last decade, I've seen dramatic treatment improvement for acute stroke.

"(However), we have just three hours from onset (of stroke) to treatment (for clot buster to be most effective). A lot of times the patient will take one or two hours just to come to the ER. Then we have to do a scan because 15 percent of strokes are bleeding kind of strokes. Then we have to do labs to see if the blood is too thin, because if the blood is too thin we can't give the clot buster. So generally we have just about one hour to decide! Sometimes we do everything timely, and when we talk to the patient about risks and benefits, they want to take time, they want to call family members and others.

"If you look at the national average, less than five percent of patients who have strokes who would have benefitted from the clot buster, get the clot buster -- which is a shame. The main reason is patient delay. Patients think, 'Oh the numbness will go away.' They come a day after they had symptoms. They have to know if they are having symptoms of a stroke, they have to call 911, get to the ER, get to the hospital, so we can give this TPA and save the patient or lessen the disability. The key is to get here right away.

"The longer a patient waits after symptoms begin, the more of the brain is affected by a clot stroke.

"Today stroke is the third leading cause of death, but the leading cause of disability. People who survive a heart attack can still function, but 70 percent of patients who have stroke have some disability, minor to severe. A person with a heart attack is scared, he runs to the ER, but not a person with stroke.

"A lot of strokes have just numbness, some visual blurring, a little slurring, and they think it will go away. We have to educate people that you have to go to the ER, even if it is a mild stroke.

"The other thing that can complicate issues is that stroke mimics. You can have symptoms that look like a stroke because of your sugar going low, or people with migraine headaches can have a stroke-like symptom of weakness in one side. When they come to us, we can evaluate quickly and say this is a stroke or a stroke mimic. If they come quickly, we can shoot the TPA quickly. Every second we delay, we lose neurons, so time is the key.

"The standard is a sudden onset of weakness in one side, trouble seeing or double vision, trouble with speech, confusion, worst headache of your life. Call 911 immediately. I think this is the key to get people to call 911 and come to the ER."

The public is recommended to take advantage of Memorial's free offer to learn about strokes from one of the leading experts in the world, Dr. Anand, who will in very telling language explain how "time lost is brain lost"

Available here -- in Niagara Falls -- courtesy of Niagara Falls Memorial.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com May 3, 2011