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19 Investigates: stroke death rates higher in 3 rural Northeast Ohio counties

Updated: May. 24, 2021 at 10:08 AM EDT
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(Editor’s note: This story was originally published May 13, 2021 at 10:50 PM EDT - Updated May 13 at 10:50 PM on cleveland19.com)

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Great Health Divide) - Every 40 seconds someone has a stroke in the United States.

Every four minutes, someone dies from a stroke.

How quickly you recognize the signs and get a loved one help can be a matter of life or death.

19 Investigates found in some rural Northeast Ohio counties, stroke death rates are higher than average.

But one hospital is working to change that.

19 News continues our series Bridging the Great Health Divide, A Gray TV initiative.

Strokes in rural Ohio

In many rural areas, strokes are more common.

19 Investigates found three Appalachian counties in northeast Ohio have stroke death rates higher than the national average.

Carroll, Tuscarawas, and Holmes counties, according to the most recent CDC data.

Holmes County has the highest rate.

Across the country, the CDC reported around 73 deaths from stroke per 100,000 adults 35 or older.

In Holmes County, that rate is around 76 deaths per 100,000.

“We’ve really made a lot of progress with treating strokes. And if we get patients in a timely fashion, it’s amazing some of the results we’ve had,” Dr. Reisinger, the director of the emergency department at Pomerene Hospital.

Pomerene Hospital is an acute stroke-ready hospital in Millersburg, Holmes County, providing 24-hour emergency stroke services.

They went through a rigorous review to earn this certification.

And it’s saving lives.

A “stroke care pyramid” from the American Heart Association shows the different levels of care.

A comprehensive stroke center provides the most advanced care, a Primary Stroke Center provides the next level of care below that, and an Acute Stroke Ready Hospital provides more basic but essential care.

“We’ve always been proactive with this because it is such a high disability, death issue in the area. And we’ve been very aggressive in treating strokes,” Dr. Reisinger said.

He said because they’re rural, they don’t have neurologists there on call 24/7.

But new technology gives them that capability through video calls.

Lifesaving technology

Pomerene Hospital was the first in northeast Ohio to get a TeleStroke program, accessing life-saving care through telemedicine.

“We have a TeleStroke doctor on the phone, a neurologist, so when a patient comes back from radiology, we have the CAT scan in place so we know what’s going on, it’s not a head bleed or anything like that,” Dr. Reisinger said.

If medication doesn’t work, they can send stroke patients to another hospital.

But the specialized training they have is invaluable.

The TeleStroke program is an essential tool for the community.

“It is amazing to see somebody who can’t see on their side, or they fall on the ground, and with either giving the medication or giving the clot retrieval, they’re able to remove the clot and this is miraculous, 24 hours later, they’re walking out of the hospital, literally. And the savings that does for the community, families, and patients, it’s just unbelievable,” he said.

Ohio is doing pretty well compared to some other states when it comes to quick access to stroke care.

Three out of four Ohioans live within 45 minutes of a hospital with the most advanced levels of stroke care, according to an analysis by Kaiser Health News.

How to spot the signs of a stroke

The CDC lists the following signs and symptoms:

-Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.

-Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.

-Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

-Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.

-Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

The CDC urges you to call 9-1-1 right away if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.

You can also read how to prevent strokes from the American Heart Association here.

Great Health Divide is an initiative addressing health disparities in the Mississippi Delta and Appalachia funded in part by the Google News Initiative.

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