New Ohio state law aims to improve stroke response by first responders

Published: Jun. 23, 2021 at 7:08 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - When you’re having a stroke, seconds count.

Every 40 seconds, someone has a stroke in the United States.

And paramedics are often the first to respond.

Which hospital first responders decide to take you to can be a life or death decision, along with the care they provide you in the ambulance.

19 Investigates found a new law could save lives.

It requires the state to develop guidelines for triage and transporting stroke patients by EMS.

Right now Ohio lacks those uniform protocols, and it can vary by fire department or EMS agency.

Many city and suburban fire departments already have specific guidelines in place to respond to strokes.

19 Investigates found Parma Fire Department is one of them.

They demonstrated technology called “Jabber” for us with a firefighter playing the part of a stroke victim in the ambulance.

Paramedics use this telemedicine, connecting to emergency room doctors through an i-pad to give possible stroke patients critical care.

Parma Fire Department said their telemedicine program can work for other areas.

They said the new law mostly affects rural fire departments where patients are further away from critical care.

Parma FD was one of the first in the nation to implement the jabbers program with University Hospitals Parma five years ago.

“We’re able to actually give the ER physician a depiction of that patient’s care in the back of the ambulance. So they can make decisions about whether or not they’re going to get that stroke medication or they’re going to need to be going to a comprehensive stroke center,” said Captain Ricky Fetter, an EMS officer for Parma Fire Department.

Fetter was referencing life-saving medicine that can only be given in a certain window of time.

Parma patients usually wind up down the road at UH Parma, a primary stroke center.

Dr. Christopher Dussel is medical director of the emergency department.

“It works really well for us in the emergency department because it allows us to already know what we’re doing with the patient before they arrive. We’ve already asked the important questions, we’ve done a mini- exam with the help of the paramedics,” he said.

Every second counts when it comes to treating strokes.

That’s why the minute a patient comes in on an ambulance, doctors are ready, accompanying them to a CT scanner.

“They stay on the EMS cot, we take them from the EMS cot to the CT scanner, so we save several minutes there. We get their weight and we place them on the CT scanner, that way we can dose the medication appropriately. That saves us a few minutes,” Dussel said.

Dussel said their record time, from the time stroke patients get to the ER door to getting their life-saving medication, is 21 minutes this year.

Doctors and paramedics we spoke to said clear guidelines and teamwork can save lives.

Parma Fire Department hopes what they already have in place when it comes to stroke care and response can be a model for other fire departments and EMS providers.

This law will take effect in the next 90 days.

19 Investigates recently found stroke death rates are higher than average in three rural counties in northeast Ohio.

You can read more about how Pomerene Hospital in Holmes County is fighting the problem in our story here.

You can learn more about the types of strokes and the warning signs from the CDC here.

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