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Good news for stroke patients in San Antonio. An aggressive effort to speed up treatment is working. It s cutting down on death and disability from this common brain problem.

Stroke is an emergency and a leading cause of death. At San Antonio s five Baptist hospitals, a concerted effort to treat patients more quickly has paid off for patients like 57-year-old Mellie Cardona-Flores, who woke up three weeks ago with a massive headache and a limp arm.

It was totally out there because it doesn t run in our family, Cardona-Flores said. We re not sick people.

Cardona-Flores was rushed to Southeast Baptist Hospital where she was given an immediate CT scan. That image can help determine whether a patient is having a bleeding brain attack or, more commonly, one that s caused by a clot.

The more quickly we give the medication, the better it is, explained Dr. Dicky Huey, a neurologist who is the medical director of the Brain and Stroke Network. And so time is brain.

For many patients, a clot-busting drug called tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) is a live-saver. The faster it s delivered, the better chance of functional recovery.

The national average for door to needle time, as it s called, it just over 27%. As of March, the five Baptist hospitals have a stellar record, getting tPA to the patients who need it within an hour 75% of the time.

That s a marked improvement, Huey commented. We hope to continue to meet those goals and improve them and get them even better.

Cardona-Flores is 85% to 90% recovered now, and grateful she got the quick intervention she needed.

I can still type, she said. I can still speak. I can walk. I can move. My memory s not gone.

In just the past six months, the five Baptist hospitals in San Antonio have treated 950 stroke patients.
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