George Hoggard knows about the importance of a rapid response. A former firefighter, the 78-year-old Titusville, Florida, resident spent the better part of his 42-year career teaching astronauts at the Kennedy Space Center how to escape to safety in the event of an emergency on the launch pad. He was also a member of the rescue team that would respond if something went wrong with a space shuttle mission.
So when his right eye suddenly began looking left while watching TV on a Sunday evening in April, George knew something was amiss. When he began feeling nauseated, he told his wife, Rita, he needed to get to the hospital.
As they prepared to make the 10-minute drive to Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, a member of the Mayo Clinic Care Network, Rita asked George to lift up both arms.
"Although his face symmetry and smile were even, one of his arms started drifting down," says Rita. George was having a stroke.
Something out of 'Star Wars'
As soon as the Hoggards arrived at the medical center, the Parrish emergency staff triaged George for a stroke and reached out to colleagues 2 1/2 hours north at Mayo Clinic's Florida campus.
Because of a national shortage of neurologists in 2010, Parrish became the first hospital to join Mayo's telestroke initiative in 2010.
Mayo Clinic's Kevin M. Barrett, M.D., a vascular neurologist, was on call that night. Through a two-way camera with zoom and tilt capability on a mobile stand, Dr. Barrett engaged with the emergency team at Parrish Medical Center in real time and performed a neurological exam. Through a secure connection he could view the brain scan and talk directly to George and Rita to clarify when George's symptoms started.
"It was like something out of 'Star Wars,' " Rita says. "A robotic machine came to the foot of George's bed, and there was the doctor asking questions. I was amazed at how quickly they could do a consult."
Dr. Barrett, who is the co-director of Mayo Clinic's Comprehensive Stroke Center, says the value of Mayo Clinic's telestroke program is that it gives patients and doctors access in real time to its Comprehensive Stroke Center in Jacksonville, Florida.
"The quicker a stroke patient is diagnosed and receives treatment, the better chance a patient has for a significant recovery after a stroke," he says.
Doctors gave George an infusion of the clot-busting protein tPA to dissolve the cause of the stroke and restore blood flow to his brain.
Unfortunately, George experienced a complication and was airlifted to Jacksonville so the stroke team at Mayo Clinic could more effectively manage his care, but that early treatment preserved his speech and most of his motor function.
Today, George is steady on his feet.
"I benefited greatly by the telestroke technology being only a few blocks away at Parrish Medical Center," he says. "I feel great and, of course, I'm so pleased that I'm going to enjoy a normal life after a stroke."
Mayo Clinic looks for innovative ways to partner with other institutions in cutting-edge technology like telestroke programs. Your support makes it possible.
Jan. 11, 2017