Dale Stringer lie in his bed next to his wife, Roxie, on the evening of May 16. It was about 10:30 p.m. and he was amidst his nightly routine of watching television for a quarter-or-so-hour before falling off into slumber––only he never got to complete the evening ritual.
As he went to reach for his remote, Stinger’s left arm didn’t respond to his mind’s directive. He stirred his wife and took to standing. Roxie turned on the light. His arm hung limp and it was apparent that his mouth also drooped. There was little question to them as to what was going on; lying calmly in bed, Dale had just had a stroke.
Today, Roxie and Dale sit leisurely in their backyard, an aesthetically pleasing sanctuary of sorts that sits on the edge of the City of Clarkfield adjacent to a sea of corn. Both look at peace, Dale without any facial droop or speech impediment, and in control of his body’s full range of motion––a pleasure he chalks up to the quick, adept action of the Granite Falls and Clarkfield ambulance and Granite Falls Hospital.
“I have all the confidence in the world in that bunch,” he said.
As with most medical emergencies, battling the potentially debilitating impacts of a stroke is all about accurate assessment and timing. When the Stringers realized what was going on, they both stayed calm. They noted the time and Roxie dialed 911, and the Clarkfield ambulance arrived in short order.
Racing toward Granite Falls, the Clarkfield ambulance met the simultaneously dispatched Granite Falls ambulance halfway. A quick exchange, and the Granite crew began preparatory work, initiating IVs, an EKG scan and other measures––while at the Granite Falls hospital, medical staff busy getting ready to play their role.
“After we receive a call, a whole series of events start happening,” said Granite Falls Ambulance Director Gene Hughes. “Lab, CT, X-Ray come in and set up the CT machine; the nurses staff has the neurologist on the end of the line through our IT television and the whole team is waiting for the patient when they arrive,”
Through Comprehensive Advanced Life Support (CALS) and other training that focuses on exceptionally efficient, capable teamwork, the ambulances, hospital and specialist function as a whole––the proverbial, well-oiled machine.
“We’re very aggressive here in Granite, we really are.” Hughes said. “I’ve worked in three hospitals in three states and we’re the most aggressive place I’ve been.”
In seamless function, the team verified that what Dale experienced was a stroke, and more specifically, a blood clot, not a brain bleed––which informed the hospital on how to attack the problem.
Eighty-five percent of the time, Hughes says it ends up being a clot, but one has to be sure as the TPA shot administered to clear the blockage could kill the patient if there is a brain bleed. The sooner the shot is employed, the better the chance a patient fully recovers––it must be injected within six hours.
Page 2 of 2 - “The nationwide goal is an hour, but rarely does somebody make it,” noted Hughes. “The Granite Falls Hospital is working under an hour almost all of the time, so it’s pretty impressive. In Dale’s case, we did it in 37 minutes, which is extremely impressive. We’re talking about somebody who lives in Clarkfield.”
Following the local care, Dale was airlifted to St. Joseph’s Hospital where he spent a few days at the hands of a specialist. The neurologist would call back later in the day to commend the ambulance and hospital teams on their extraordinary work. On his healthy return home, Dale did the same, in person.
“The hospital is lucky to have Gene Hughes,” he said. “We’re lucky to have the whole team we have with those ambulances and the Granite Falls hospital.”