Telemedicine Provides Advanced Stroke Care: SJRMC linked to Loyola

“Beam me up Scotty” is a phrase many of us remember from Star Trek as Captain Kirk gives the command that he needs to be transported to the starship enterprise. While science fiction has fascinated us for years, time is critical in real life situations and teleporting medicine is happening right here in Michiana.

Newcenter16 covered an exlcusive story about a robot in South Bend and telemedicine allowing neurologists to offer the most advanced stroke care, reaching out to sub-specialists across the country.

This robot maneuvers its way into the emergency room at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center and is being controlled by Dr. Sarkis Morales Vidal from his office at Loyola Medical School outside Chicago.

Dr. Vidal guides the robot right to the bedside of a potential stroke patient for an immediate second opinion in the most difficult cases.

Neurologist PaulaToth-Russell says the majority of cases can be taken care of right at home.

She says, “I must stress that most stroke patients are still identified, treated, or managed within our own walls.”

Although time, usually a three hour window is of the essence, and despite the best advances, with medications like TPA for acute treatment of stroke, there is a lot that goes on inside the brain for a small segment of the population who need more specialized testing or therapies. That's where this robot and the med center's partnership with Loyola 24 hours a day, seven days a week, comes in.

“They have sub specialty neurologists, termed interventional neurologists, and also fellowship trained stroke neurologists who have a wider base of patients,” says Dale Seely.

Seely of Jimtown is alive today because of the telemedicine program between the two hospitals. Despite suffering from high blood pressure, he had no idea in January that he was having an acute stroke.

He explains, “I started to have some double vision and I was dizzy. I just thought I needed something to eat so, wisely, I got myself a Starbucks and headed to work….After I got into room it really got bad. I felt a lot of warmth on my shoulder. I asked my wife if they had a heating pad on me and she said ‘No’. That's when everything kind of went numb.”

Seely had a blood clot in an extra, unknown, artery in his brain. Doctors at St. Joe immediately got a hold of Loyola. His stroke symptoms were advancing to the point where he needed the more sub-specialty care and more intensive, invasive types of tests that Loyola was able to offer. Knowing they had a roughly three to six hours window, Dale was rushed to Chicago where he spent a week having specialized treatment and then returned to St. Joe to finish treatment.

In Chicago, Dr. Morales used a joystick to control the robot at St. Joe and basically do a bedside check of his cognitive function. Additionally, Dr. Toth-Russell can look at his brain imaging.

Due to the quick treatment and the new technology involving telemedicine, Seely says, “That partnership is the reason I am here, I am healthy, I’m alive and I am working today. I’m very grateful and very blessed.”

Strokes happen fast and this telemedicine technology is the wave of the future. Doctors at St. Joseph say allowing them to activate the most advanced stroke care in the country is critical when every second counts.

For a link to St. Joseph’s stroke-telemedicine website click here

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