Quick Stroke Response Means Faster Recovery for Alsip Man

An occasional headache at work is something most of us experience from time to time, but a nagging headache that lasts all day may be a sign of something more serious.

For 57-year-old Tom Collins, a paramedic/cardiac technician, it was the first clue something wasn't right.

"I had a very bad headache all day," he recalls. "It was really bothering me."

Later, as he prepared to leave, the room started spinning. That's the last thing he remembers before waking up in CT scanning at Ingalls Memorial Hospital. Fortunately for Collins, cardiologist Francis Almeda, M.D., was nearby when Collins collapsed, and Almeda suspected a stroke.

Within minutes, Collins was met by neurologist Engin Yilmaz, M.D., and cardiologist P. Sandy Sundram, M.D. The hospital's stroke protocol was activated, and Collins was taken for a CT scan to determine the stroke's cause and extent.

The MRI confirmed the presence of an ischemic stroke (caused by a blockage), and Collins immediately received the clot-busting drug tPA to minimize the stroke's damage.

"It all happened within 30 minutes," Collins said. "They took wonderful care of me."

"When it comes to a stroke, time is everything," he added. "I know my stroke could have been a lot worse. The staff in the ER took great care of me and my family."

In 2010, Illinois lawmakers enacted legislation to ensure that patients with a suspected stroke are transported to the nearest Primary Stroke Center, and Ingalls was the first hospital in the region to achieve this distinction.

"Hospitals with a specialty stroke center designation like Ingalls have the resources and the ability to rapidly assess suspected strokes and offer recommended treatments such as tPA promptly, minimizing the possibility of long-term disability," said Dr. Yilmaz, medical director of the Ingalls Stroke Center. "Numerous studies have shown that stroke patients receive better care and experience better outcomes when they are at a Primary Stroke Center like Ingalls."

To determine your personal risk for stroke, visit Ingalls.org/StrokeAware and take a simple seven-minute online assessment.

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