On Tuesday morning, 42-year-old Harikrishnan, a car driver from Taramani, was all set for a new day at work.
Just as he was about to leave at 7.30 a.m., he experienced a sudden difficulty in using his left limbs. Within two hours, he was rushed to the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (GH), where neurologists found he had suffered from an ischemic stroke, paralysing his left upper and lower limbs.
Harikrishnan was given thrombolytic treatment — where drugs are used to break or dissolve the blood clot that led to the stroke, and open up the blood vessel.
The GH, doctors said, is the first State government-run hospital to provide free thrombolysis in the country.
“A stroke is a cerebrovascular accident, and it occurs suddenly, without any warning. The person could be fine one day, and could suffer a stroke the next, resulting in paralysis. We have all the facilities here to identify patients with stroke and treat them, as we have an exclusive stroke unit at the GH,” said C. Mutharasu, head of the neurology department at the hospital.
Dr. Mutharasu explained that there were two kinds of strokes. Ischemic strokes are caused by blockages to blood vessels, while haemorrhagic strokes are caused by the bursting of blood vessels.
“The emphasis is on ‘Act FAST’ – an acronym for face, arms, speech and time. Facial deviations, drifting of arms, slurring of speech and the sudden onset of these symptoms are signs of a stroke. We are planning to educate 108 ambulance drivers on act FAST so that patients are brought to hospital as early as possible,” R. Lakshmi Narasimhan, a professor of neurology, explained.
Doctors also said that “time is brain” when it comes to a stroke, meaning the faster the patient is brought in for treatment, the higher the chances of avoiding brain damage.
GH has been providing free thrombolysis for the last three months. Three patients have been thrombolysed so far, Dr. Narasimhan said, using the drug tissue plasminogen activator.
“If the patient comes within three hours of the onset of symptoms, the injection is administered intravenously. If the patient comes very late, it is given intra-arterially,” he added.
The drug costs about Rs. 50,000 and the entire treatment costs around Rs. 1lakh. “But it is free at the GH, making it the first State government-run hospital to do so. The treatment is covered under the Chief Minister’s comprehensive health insurance scheme,” he said.
Neurologists reiterate the need to keep the risk factors causing stroke under control — diabetes, hypertension, increased cholesterol, smoking, alcohol, obesity and cardiac ailments. Any one factor, if left uncontrolled could lead to a stroke, they said.
Doctors said the exclusive stroke unit was set up thanks to the efforts of GH dean V. Kanagasabai.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is a cerebrovascular accident that occurs when blood supply to a part of the brain is interrupted
What are the signs of stroke?
Inability to use one half of the body, a sudden loss of vision in one or both eyes, a sudden inability to speak or understand speech and sudden onset of unsteadiness
What are the primary causes of a stroke?
Uncontrolled diabetes, hypertension, increased cholesterol levels, smoking, alcohol use, obesity and cardiac disease
What should you do if you have a stroke?
Seek immediate medical help, preferably within three hours of the onset of the stroke
GH shows the way
-The Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital has an exclusive stroke unit and round-the-clock neurologists to attend to stroke patients
-The GH now offers free thrombolysis. So far, three patients have been thrombolysed.
-The GH's department of neurology plans to educate 108 ambulance drivers on the symptoms of stroke, so they can bring patients in as fast as possible