Friday, 04 October 2019 14:43

Taking stroke care to the next level

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Cheraw stroke survivor Ann McCormick, as well as her husband Max and son Sandy, greet each new day with gratitude for McLeod Health saving her life earlier this year. Cheraw stroke survivor Ann McCormick, as well as her husband Max and son Sandy, greet each new day with gratitude for McLeod Health saving her life earlier this year. McLeod Health

CHERAW, S.C. — In just four minutes you could: read a few pages of a book; return a phone call; listen to a favorite song... or die from a stroke. On average, every four minutes, a stroke claims a life. It is the third leading cause of death in South Carolina.


McLeod Health cares for patients with stroke symptoms and helps prevent this devastating outcome. The organization recently received certification affirming that its hospitals are equipped to provide care to patients with acute stroke symptoms who seek life-saving treatment from the Emergency Department. The certification, granted by DNV GL Healthcare, designates McLeod Health as Acute Stroke Ready. DNV is a certification body that helps hospitals achieve excellence by improving quality and safety through hospital accreditation. 

The McLeod Health system includes the first hospitals in the state of South Carolina to receive certification as Acute Stroke Ready by DNV. The hospitals who have achieved Acute Stroke Ready designation are: McLeod Health Cheraw, McLeod Health Clarendon, McLeod Health Dillon, McLeod Health Loris and McLeod Health Seacoast. As Acute Stroke Ready hospitals, McLeod teams also have the ability to administer intravenous thrombolytic therapy, or tPA, the only FDA-approved treatment for strokes caused by a blood clot interrupting blood flow to a region of the brain.

Once the tPA is administered, the patient would be transferred to a Primary Stroke Center for ongoing stroke care. Within the McLeod Health system, McLeod Regional Medical Center is certified as a Primary Stroke Center. The medical center received this designation in 2014, and recently achieved re-certification.

“This certification acknowledges to our community that we have the resources to provide the best possible stroke care,” said Dr. Timothy Hagen, Medical Director of Stroke and Neurology Services for McLeod Regional Medical Center. “A combination of the right equipment, personnel and training allows us to quickly assess and treat strokes. 

“Stroke leads the cause of disability in the United States with about 800,000 Americans suffering a new or recurrent stroke each year. Additionally, one third of all patients have their first stroke prior to age 65. With these statistics, the exceptional stroke care we provide for our patients, and improving the overall care for our community, is crucial,” added Dr. Hagen. 

Achieving accreditation required several months of dedicated team work. At each McLeod hospital, this work was led by a Stroke Coordinator, an expert nurse who provided leadership for the organization to assure a collaborative approach to stroke care. Today, McLeod stroke-trained teams stand ready to provide fast assessment and treatment of stroke for more positive outcomes for patients in the region.

Ann McCormick’s Story 

Ann McCormick of Cheraw, South Carolina, began to lose her balance while baking a cake. Fortunately, her husband Max walked into the kitchen at that precise moment and caught her before she fell to the floor.

“I am unsteady on my feet and accustomed to being a little wobbly every now and then,” said Ann. “I thought nothing of Max having to catch me. But, by the time he turned around to leave the kitchen, I had fallen again and hit my neck and shoulder against the corner wall.” Max called out to their son, Sandy, for help. When Sandy reached down to help his mother up off of the floor, he instantly suspected a stroke. Sandy recognized the signs from his experience responding to Rescue Squad calls as an officer with the Cheraw Police Department. 

“I saw that her lips, eyes, jaw line, and the left side of her face were drooping and believed my mother was exhibiting the classic symptoms of stroke,” said Sandy. “I told my dad we needed to get her to the hospital immediately.”

“When I heard Sandy say I was having a stroke, I told him not to worry — I had only lost my balance,” said Ann. But, Sandy called on his police radio for an ambulance to be dispatched to his mother’s house. Dr. Gabe Simpson, Medical Director of the McLeod Health Cheraw Emergency Department, was contacted to prepare the stroke team for their arrival. 

“In my law enforcement training, I have learned that time is everything during a stroke situation,” explained Sandy. “When you see someone showing signs of stroke, every second counts until you get them to an Emergency Department because you only have a small window of time for a chance of survival.” 

Dr. Simpson and the Stroke Team were outside the Emergency Department waiting on the ambulance to arrive and rushed Ann inside to conduct a CT scan. The scan revealed a large blood clot in the carotid artery of Ann’s neck, blocking the blood flow to her brain which caused the stroke. The medical professionals at McLeod Health Cheraw quickly administered the clot dissolving tPA medication that saved Ann’s life. 

“I remember my friend Gabe (Dr. Simpson) praying for me out loud with both of my pastors on either side of me joining in,” said Ann. “If Sandy had not been at my house when I experienced my stroke, I would have just thought I lost my balance again,” said a fully recovered Ann. “I would never have related my symptoms to a stroke and would have just waited it out.” 

“I am extremely thankful we were able to get my mom to the appropriate place and in the hands of the skilled ED physicians and nurses at McLeod Health Cheraw at the right time,” said Sandy. “The unit worked together like a well-oiled machine and that is why my mom is still with me today.”