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Mobile stroke ambulance to roll into Oak Park

March 13, 2018 – Residents who report symptoms of stroke soon will receive state-of-the-art, emergency care on site rather than having to wait to reach an emergency room as Rush Oak Park Hospital deploys a specially designed mobile ambulance in Oak Park.

The custom-built Rush Mobile Stroke Unit, one of only six in the nation, is equipped with technology and drug therapies that are critical to accurately diagnosing and immediately beginning treatment for stroke.

Patients typically cannot be treated for a stroke until they get to an emergency department. But with the mobile stroke unit, immediate diagnosis and treatment can begin wherever there is need, which will improve their chances of a good recovery, officials say.

“Receiving the correct treatment for stroke quickly can mean the difference between life and death or disability, but in most cases treatment must be provided to patients shortly after a stroke to be effective,” said James Conners, MD, medical director of the Rush Comprehensive Stroke Center and the Rush Mobile Stroke Unit.

Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb called the deployment of the unit in Oak Park “an exciting advancement in health care."

“The Village of Oak Park is excited to partner with Rush University Medical Center's new Mobile Stroke Unit,” he said, noting that Oak Park’s firefighter-paramedics are eager to add this tool to their emergency response resources.

The unit that will service Oak Park is based at Rush Oak Park Hospital on Maple Avenue, just south of Madison Street, and has been providing services to Broadview since November. Plans are to expand service to even more communities, Rush officials say.

“Rush is dedicated to helping its patients achieve the best possible outcomes," said Bruce Elegant, president and CEO of Rush Oak Park Hospital. "The Rush Mobile Stroke Unit along with the state-of-the-art technology we have available in our Emergency Department are examples of our commitment to saving lives and preventing devastating complications in people who are suffering strokes."

Quick treatment can mean the difference between life and death, doctors say, which is why the unit could have a big impact in Oak Park.

The mobile stroke team will respond to 911 calls reporting symptoms indicating stroke and can perform CT scans of patients promptly upon arrival. Rush radiologists will receive and analyze transmissions of these detailed brain images from the unit to determine whether a patient has experienced a stroke, and if so, which type of stroke it is. Rush stroke neurologists will evaluate the patients remotely and decide what kind of treatment is needed.

“We’re talking about having the ability to check patients in their own driveways for bleeding in the brain or blockage in their blood vessels,” says Demetrius Lopes, MD, surgical director of the Rush Comprehensive Stroke Center. “This ability is crucial, since stroke treatment decisions depend on CT scan imaging of the brain.”

Critical care registered nurses staffing the mobile unit will administer the appropriate stroke medication after conferring with the stroke neurologist and then transport the patient to the most appropriate stroke center. The goal is to provide optimal treatment to stroke victims within the first golden hour after symptom onset, when doctors say it will do the most good.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain stops, causing brain cells to stop receiving oxygen. Stroke is the number one cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

On average, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds. About 87 percent of all strokes are caused by a clot that blocks a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain, cutting off the brain’s supply of oxygen and causing brain tissue to die.

The American Stroke Association recommends using the acronym F.A.S.T. to spot the signs and symptoms of a stroke:

F – Facial droop

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech difficulty

T – Time to call 9-1-1

Photo of Dr. James Conners inside the Mobile Stroke Unit
Dr. James Conners inside the Mobile Stroke Unit

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