Ankeny Fire Department Participates in Stroke Education Seminar

ANKENY, Iowa – The Ankeny Fire Department and Mercy Medical Center are teaming up to learn how important each other's roles are when it comes to detecting a medical emergency, like a stroke.

The education seminar comes days after actor Luke Perry died at the age of 52 from a massive stroke.

Mercy Medical Center Stroke Coordinator Terri Hamm said EMTs and firefighters are often the first form of medical contact for a patient.

“What they identify, and how they assess that patient allows us to be alerted they may be bringing in a stroke patient. That alert allows us to be at the bedside when the patient rolls through the door in the emergency department,” Hamm said.

There are two main types of strokes. Ischemic strokes happen when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is obstructed. The second is a hemorrhagic stroke, which happens when a weakened blood vessel ruptures.

A minor stoke is called a transient ischemic attack. TIA is a temporary clot that shows the same symptoms of a full stroke.

“If you get the sudden onset of all the symptoms that are a stroke, even if they go away quickly, we urge you to go in and see a practitioner. Whether it is your doctor, go to the urgent care or hospital we want to see you because sometimes those are the harbingers of a big stroke coming,” Hamm said.

Paramedic and Ankeny Firefighter Tyler Harsselaar said their biggest challenge is time.

“Because of the certain types of drugs that they are able to push. Some are only three hours, some are only four and a half hours. There is a very narrow window that they are allowed to push some of those drugs to help a patient,” Harsselaar said.

Symptoms of a stroke include: a sudden severe headache, sudden blurred vision, decreased vision, sudden dizziness, trouble speaking  and sudden weakness or numbness in face, arms, legs or side of the body.

“Time is brain. All of those early alerts allow us to much more efficiently assess and care for that patient,” Hamm said.

Hamm said the sooner the stroke is treated the higher chance of survival and decreased chance of becoming paralyzed.

In 2018 Medical Mercy Center in Des Moines saw on average people at the age of 54 being treated for a stroke.

However, Hamm said she has seen an increase of children, teens and young adults being treated for a stroke.

“Lifestyle has very much to do with it. Sometimes it’s choices. We see a fair amount of drug abuse, but also just lifestyle stress. Folks are running a 100 miles a minute. They’re not taking time to sleep properly, eat properly get enough fluids,” Hamm said.

Hamm said in with younger patients they have seen head and neck trauma cause a stroke.

Risk factors that can cause a stroke include: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, atrial fibrillation, diabetes, smoking, heavy alcohol use, obesity and family history.

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