St. Mark's Hospital works to become stroke certified

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HOLLADAY -- Stroke patients in Utah are fortunate a local hospital is working to become stroke certified by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association.

Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States suffers from a stroke, which ultimately accounts for 1 out of every 18 deaths in the United States.

This is great news, since strokes are the third leading cause of death and the No. 1 cause of disability in the United States.

When someone suffers a stroke, there is only a small window of three to four hours to save the patient's life and reduce the risk disabilities. That's what St. Mark's Hospital prides itself in: its ability to act quickly and save lives.

Patient Elizabeth Klein is thankful the hospital was so prepared after she suffered a stroke.

"I bent down to pick my camera to take a picture of the puppy, and suddenly I felt slightly dizzy and I lost some of my vision," she said of the incident.

Klein's circumstance wasn't typical -- she's only 38 years old.

The signs of a stroke:
  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the 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, severe headache with no known cause

"No way, I can't have a stroke at 38. That's too young," Klein recalls thinking. Now she knows, "And it turns out you can have strokes in your 20s, and even some children have strokes."

"Strokes are a huge medical problem," said Dr. Celeste Raffin, a specialist at St. Mark's Hospital. "About 785,000 strokes happen across the United States every year."

That's why the staff at St. Marks is so pleased to have earned the Stroke Silver Performance Achievement Award from the American Heart and Stroke associations.

"It means we are in the process of becoming a joint-commission certified stroke center," Raffin said.

It also means Utahns -- like Elizabeth Klein and Dell Vaugh McDonald, who suffered a stroke while working out on a treadmill -- can receive the best care possible.

"I can't say enough of how great they were," Klein said. "The nurses and the doctors, they were right on their game."

Stroke is the No. 1 cause of disability and the third leading cause of death in Utah. -St. Mark's Hospital

Because of the quick treatment from St. Mark's staff, both Klein and McDonald have only minor, if any, long-term disabilities from their strokes. They continue to receive preventative care and therapy at the hospital.

But don't think St. Mark's is satisfied with the silver star designation -- it's going for the gold.

"We're hoping within less than a year we will be a stroke-certified hospital," Raffin said.

The University of Utah's Stroke Center received the Gold Plus Performance Award from the American Heart Association, the only hospital in Salt Lake County currently to attain this level of distinction for stroke care.


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Amanda Butterfield


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