“During a stroke, 2 million neurons die each minute, which is why getting to the right place at the right time matters,” says Jim Walker, MD, the board-certified anesthesia, critical care and neurocritical care specialist who has provided medical leadership for the program for more than a decade.
That’s why throughout May, recognized nationally as Stroke Awareness Month, Ascension Via Christi is partnering with the American Heart/American Stroke Association to further educate the community about the signs and symptoms of stroke and the important role that a Comprehensive Stroke Center plays in patients’ treatment and recovery.
“We want patients and their hospital providers to know that when time is of the essence, they should seek the best care available, and that level of care is available at Ascension Via Christi,” says Dr. Walker.
For more than a decade, Ascension Via Christi St. Francis, the only Wichita hospital with the demonstrated ability to deliver advanced stroke care 24/7, has invested significant resources in advancing its stroke program.
It’s that level of commitment that eventually led St. Francis to achieve and maintain consecutive certifications as a Comprehensive Stroke Center, the highest level of stroke certification possible.
"It literally takes years of investment, both of time and financial resources, along with a talented, multidisciplinary team of caregivers committed to continuous improvement to earn this designation,” says Kevin Strecker, Ascension Via Christi’s chief executive officer. Strecker also noted that when the stroke program became certified as a primary stroke center 17 years ago, it was the first in the area to do so. Stroke, the nation’s leading cause of disability and the 5th leading cause of death, is serious business and requires a systemwide response with dedicated teams with advanced capabilities.
The experience and expertise from St. Francis’ multidisciplinary team remains unrivaled in its geographic area. St. Francis is home to the region’s first dedicated neurocritical care unit — a 20-bed unit staffed by fellowship-trained physicians and specialty trained neuroscience nurse practitioners, physician assistants and critical care nurses. They work in partnership with caregivers throughout other areas of the hospital, including those serving in the Emergency Department; respiratory therapy; imaging and radiology; pharmacy; physical, occupational and speech therapy; social work and case management; and chaplain services.
As a Comprehensive Stroke Center, St. Francis is equipped with advanced neuro-imaging and complex neuro-endovascular and neurosurgery capabilities needed to treat ischemic strokes, hemorrhagic strokes, aneurysms and other neuro-vascular conditions.
Pre-hospital notification and screening for stroke severity by first responders, together with a direct-to-CT scanner protocol, has helped to triage patients through the system much quicker, resulting in improved door-to-puncture endovascular treatment times.
In 2021, St. Francis once again received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines® Stroke Gold Plus achievement award. It also earned the Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite quality award, further showing the team’s dedication to continuous improvement.
Those awards – the highest given by the AHA/ASA – serve as a testament to Ascension Via Christi’s long-standing commitment to ensuring stroke patients receive the most appropriate treatment according to the nationally recognized organization.
“Being recognized at this level requires dedication and teamwork from a patient’s first medical contact to hospital discharge and post-acute care,” says Lenzi Kaub, APRN, stroke program coordinator for the Comprehensive Stroke Center at St. Francis.
"Advances in imaging technology, endovascular devices and stroke systems of care have expanded treatment windows to 24 hours and beyond," says interventional radiologist Kumar Reddy, MD. "With these advances, and in the setting of a Comprehensive Stroke Center like ours, we can treat complex neurovascular conditions with significantly better outcomes than it was possible just a decade ago.”