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Aurora stroke survivor credits remarkable recovery to UCHealth's mobile stroke unit

For every minute lost post stroke, a patient loses 2 million brain cells.
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Posted at 11:24 AM, May 12, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-13 13:05:37-04

AURORA, Colo. — May is stroke awareness month and Colorado is home to two of just a handful of mobile stroke units across the country.

The units allow first responders to provide immediate care to stroke victims as soon as paramedics arrive, sometimes the victim can bypass the emergency room.

Peter Ryan suffered a stroke at the Aurora Hills Golf Course on April 8 and credits his remarkable recovery to the unit.

"The right side of my face went slack. And I couldn't move anything on the right side of my body," Ryan said. "My boss called 911 because apparently I was speaking gibberish."

Emergency dispatchers sent out Aurora's mobile stroke unit from UCHealth.

"We get out on this golf course and our patients sitting on the ground with coworkers, Aurora fires on scene, Falks on scene and they're all doing their assessments. And then we hop in," said Devin Groves, paramedic nurse. "The CT tech is getting ready to do the scan. My paramedic is getting vital signs. I'm doing that assessment and the interview still with the neurologist and we're just really trying to do as much as we can in a short amount of time."

They worked so quickly, that by the time Ryan got to the hospital, he could skip the ER. Groves said he couldn't have done that if a typical ambulance responded because they don't carry the medications and CT scanner the mobile stroke unit does.

"We went straight to interventional radiology. And he went straight to the table, and they removed that clot," Groves said.

Ryan remembers waking up an hour and a half later.

"The nurse asked me, she was like, 'What's my name? What's my birthday?' They asked me to move my left leg and move my right leg, and I was able to do all of it. They all just looked at each other and smiled," he said.

Aurora stroke survivor credits remarkable recovery to mobile stroke unit

He calls himself a "best-case scenario." He didn't need therapy, and one month later he's walking and talking with no side effects.

"You know, I mean, right now my quality of life is better than it was before because I'm way more appreciative of being here," Ryan said.

Responders said, "time is brain," meaning for every minute that's lost post-stroke, the victim loses two million brain cells. So for Ryan to be back to life as normal, they said, is pretty remarkable.

The state's other mobile stroke unit is in Colorado Springs and was just added a few months ago.

Leaders with UCHealth said they're working to get the word out about both units so dispatchers and victims know they're available.

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