Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Strokes: A Matter of Time



Straight Talk
Allen S Weiss, M.D.
President & CEO NCH Healthcare System

Among our most urgent goals at NCH is to save stroke patients. We’re making great progress. But with a stroke, time is of the essence. And knowing the following early signs and symptoms can be brain-saving and life-saving:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or understanding
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden headache with no known cause

The point is we can make a difference, with a team starting with Emergency Medical Services (EMS), our two Emergency Rooms (ERs), our telespecialists in our Telestroke program, NCH neurologists and neurosurgeons, our neurological units on both campuses, and our Brookdale Center for Rehabilitation and Aging. But with a stroke, time is an urgent matter. Brain tissue deprived of blood delivering oxygen dies within hours. At NCH, we can stop a stroke with our Save-A-Brain Program, whose goal is to treat stroke victims coming into the system within 60 minutes.

Since last November, we have had two functioning robots in both of our Emergency Rooms (ER), connected 24/7/365 to board-certified neurologists trained to evaluate and treat stroke victims. On average, within eight minutes of coming into the ER, the patient is evaluated by the neurologist using the Telestroke Robot. Within 44 minutes, a patient needing the clot-busting drug receives this therapy or can be transferred to our new state-of-the art biplane interventional radiology suite where a team, led by Dr. Mazon AbuAwad, can remove the blockage. We have decreased the time to evaluate and treat a patient by hours since we started the Telestroke program. I witnessed this early one morning at our new North Naples ER, as a patient and spouse interacted seamlessly with a neurologist functioning on our Telestroke Robot.

Our more aggressive approach to treating strokes echoes the journey NCH took back in 2000 in our approach to treating heart attacks. We have had and continue to enjoy among the lowest cardiac mortality rates in a nation where cardiac disease is the leading cause of death. (In Collier County, cancer is the leading cause of death.)

With strokes, we’ve got a ways to go, but we’re getting there. One of our esteemed oncologists, Dr. Dan Morris, wrote recently about how his patient, an “88-year-old retired luminary came to the hospital with slurred speech. Undergoes cerebral arteriogram revealing clot in right middle cerebral artery. Undergoes thrombectomy, via catheter, through the groin with guidewire; clot fragment removed from right middle cerebral artery. No complications.”

Success stories like this are becoming more commonplace for Dr. Mazon AbuAwad and his stroke-treating colleague’s Brenda Hartmann, Stroke Coordinator, Diana Trupiano, Stroke Navigator, Omar VillarrealKaren Lyster and the IR Team, Clinical Resource Nurses, Staff on both Neuro Units (6 South-DNH and 6-NNH), Critical Care Team and the Emergency Department Team. Their daily contributions along the road to Telestroke are just another indication how NCH, with the most sophisticated stroke technology and the most competent caregivers, is helping the residents of Southwest Florida live longer, happier, and healthier lives.


In September 2006, Dr. Allen Weiss was appointed president and CEO of the NCH Healthcare System, a 715-bed, two-hospital integrated health care system. NCH is one of only twenty hospitals in the country affiliated with Mayo Clinic, and has been named three times by “U. S. News and World Report” as best in the region and among the 50 best cardiovascular programs according to Truven. He is a graduate of Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and completed his training at both the New York Presbyterian Hospital and Hospital for Special Surgery of Cornell University. He also had a solo practice in Rheumatology, Internal Medicine and Geriatrics for 23 years, and is board certified in all three specialties. He is recognized both as a Fellow of the American College of Physicians and a Fellow of the American College of Rheumatology. His wife, Dr. Marla Weiss, is a writer and educator, and they have two daughters who are physicians.

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