May is National Stroke Awareness Month and one Stephenville resident is more than happy to promote public awareness.

On Jan. 25, Swedish pastry chef and former competitive ballroom dancer, Lars Persson, was surprised to discover that he couldn’t move the right side of his body.

Knowing that he was having a stroke, Persson immediately called 911. Within minutes, EMS arrived and transported Persson to Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville.

Using the new technology of a telestroke, a virtual stroke care program, Persson was able to be at Texas Health Stephenville and receive care simultaneously from physicians at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth.

“At Stephenville, we are blessed to have many specialists in house, like cardiology, orthopedics, and OB-GYN. Some specialists are harder to come by, and telestroke allows us to get neurological service in a rural community,” said Jim Carmical, ER physician.

“They asked me if I wanted to try a new kind of drug they had,” Persson said. “They gave me a warning at the same time. It was a little bit risky and I would have an interview with a person in Fort Worth. It was a neurologist. She was on the TV screen. She told me everything about that drug and I told them to go ahead and do it so they put it into the IV and it didn’t take five minutes until I could move my toes.”

Persson was given Activase, a clot-busting medication through the IV that’s high-risk for bleeding, and was then transferred to Fort Worth for observation. After spending a few days in Fort Worth, he was free to go home.

“That was it. I was fine as a fiddle,” he added.

The reason he had a stroke, Persson believes, is because he has atrial fibrillation. He ran out of his blood thinner medication and didn’t renew them. Less than two months later, he had the stroke.

"That can be a cause of stroke is the irregular heart rhythm so that’s super important for him to have that blood thinning medication,” said stroke coordinator Christie Hershey.

The telestroke program was initiated at Texas Health Stephenville in 2016 and, along with patients like Persson, it has been extremely successful.

“Any chance for rural communities to get the benefit of a specialist is a great thing. Being able to discuss with a specialist some of the more atypical presentations of illness and decide the best course of action is really a great addition to the management and care of our patients,” Carmical said.

“Patients have benefitted from it greatly and we’ve had positive outcomes,” Hershey said. “It’s convenient for the patient because they get to stay at the room here in our facility and it’s quick; we have 24/7 access to neurologists at Fort Worth via a pager and so they respond very quickly to assess the patient. Then also, the benefit is they can determine the care but if they don’t need the medication, then a lot of times they can stay here locally and then we can do an observation here. Then, by having the quick access and the quick treatments, that benefits the patient as far as their care because time is of the essence with stroke because every second, tissue and brain damage can occur, so by having that quick response, that definitely helps the patients’ outcome and they always say ‘time is brain.’”

The symptoms of a stroke are confusion, difficulty understanding, dizziness, loss of balance, numbness, severe headache, trouble speaking, trouble walking, vision changes and weakness.

Texas Health Stephenville also likes to use the acronym “BE FAST” for the general public in determining stroke symptoms.

• B is for Balance, watch for sudden loss of balance.

• E is for Eyes, check for vision loss.

• F is for Face, look for an uneven smile.

• A is for Arm, check if one arm is weak.

• S is for Speech, listen for slurred speech.

• T is for Time, time to call 911.

Hershey advises that if someone believes they are having stroke symptoms, to arrive at the hospital as quickly as possible.

“There is a window that you have to give the medication that Persson received and that is within four and a half hours of symptom onset, so we like for patients to arrive within three hours, that way we can assess them and get ready to give the medication and meet that window,” she said.

Hershey is happy that the telestroke has been beneficial to stroke patients.

“I just love when patients have successful outcomes and we (Texas Health Stephenville) are a part of that,” she said.

When asked what was the key takeaway Persson wanted readers to get from his story, he said, “that Harris Methodist Stephenville is one of the best hospitals that I have ever been to.”