Mobile stroke unit at UCHealth a first in Colo.

Posted at 11:08 PM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-19 01:38:12-04

Every second counts when you have a stroke.     

Now, your chances of surviving are better thanks to a revolutionary technology from University of Colorado Hospital.

What looks just like a regular ambulance, is in fact, UCHealth’s Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit. First responders have access to a portable CAT scan to determine stroke severity.

Then, they use a Telestroke monitor to conference with a doctor who can give the go ahead to administer life-saving drugs.         

UCHealth is one of only four in the country with this technology - and one of five in the world.

The hospital has also launched a stroke recovery and wellness program. The group is called SSTAR, Stroke Survivors Taking Aim at Recovery. Stroke survivors work with recent victims on their rehabilitation.

"We go visit people just to show them that there is life to look forward to after something like this happens,” said stroke survivor Tara Dinkel. “And you do get better."

Dinkel suffered a massive stroke when she was just 25. She’s now 36.

“I thought my life was over after I had my stroke,” she said. She suffered a stroke on a hot day in June while on a walk with her husband.

“I remember falling because I thought I had tripped,” Dinkel said. “I didn't know something was wrong, but then a man gave me a drink because he thought I was suffering from heat exhaustion. It just ran out of my mouth. I couldn’t swallow.”

Dinkel was in a medically induced coma for three weeks because of swelling on the brain and the removal of part of her skull to relieve that swelling.

“It was devastating,” she said. “I mean, I was completely reliant on people to do things for me.”

Dinkel still has a slight limp and numbness on her left side, but her recovery has been remarkable.

“I had to rebuild myself from the ground up.”

Cory Rivers, 41, is also a stroke survivor and a part of SSTAR.

He suffered a stroke just four years ago.

“I didn't even know how to walk,” Rivers said. “That was rough. Very rough.”

Rivers says his recovery has taught him a lot, especially about gratitude.

“I focus now on what I can do,” he said. “My abilities and being grateful for what I have. I have a slight limp. It gives me character and street cred.”

With strokes, Dr. David Case, a neurointerventionalist at University of Colorado Hospital, explains 1.8 million brain cells are dying every minute.

“Stroke is one of the most devastating and disabling things. And it affects everybody,” said Case.

Case said the triggers and risk factors are similar to a heart attack. He says prevention is key.

“Making sure your blood pressure is well controlled. Making sure you're checking your cholesterol.”

Case says the signs of an oncoming stroke are easily identifiable.

“You start having difficulty speaking. Also, weakness on one side of body or the other, and vision problems,” Case said.

Strokes are the number one cause of disabilities in adults and the fifth leading cause of death.