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First Stroke Ambulance Unveiled in Houston

Updated: Thursday, July 3 2014, 10:10 AM CDT

A stroke can hit anyone suddenly, and, if they symptoms aren't recognized quickly, and the patient doesn't get to the hospital soon, a stroke can result in death. But, with the right treatment and the right amount of time, doctors can save stroke victims.

That's where a new, first-of-its-kind ambulance in Houston comes in. Patients can get immediate treatment for symptoms of a stroke, before even getting to the hospital.

This is the first ambulance of its kind in the United States. Once on scene, Memorial Hermann Neurologist Dr. James Grotta examines the patient and quickly gets them into the ambulance where a portable CT scanner will take a picture of their brain. "If someone is having a stroke they only way I am going to know if that is a stroke due to bleeding or due to a blocked artery is by doing a C-T scan," says Dr. Grotta.

The mobile stroke unit has been responding to calls for about two months, and has already been credited with saving lives. 30-year-old Maureen Osaka was the first patient saved. "I can't move this leg, then I feel like I am falling apart. I can't even raise it up, I was like what is going on? And I can't talk... I can't talk...," Osaka says of the morning she had classic stroke symptoms. The mobile stroke unit rushed to her downtown home. Within minutes, Osaka underwent a CT scan, confirming she was suffering a rare and fatal type of stroke.

Using web cameras, doctors back at the hospital were already making treatment plans. "At the same time I'm on the ambulance evaluating the patient, there's one of my colleagues at the medical center who is seeing me evaluating the patient and is making his own assessment," says Dr. Grotta. Before the ambulance left the scene, Osaka was receiving life-saving clot-busting medicine that likely saved her life.

Just days after the stroke, Osaka was moving her left side, speaking clearly and walking on her own. "I feel so grateful, I feel so grateful," says Osaka.

Dr. Grotta says it is crucial to know the symptoms of a stroke. And the simple way to remember, is to use the "FAST" rule.

F- is for face. Pay attention to signs of numbness.

A - is for arm weakness or drifting.

S - is for speech. Watch for trouble talking.

T - is for time.

If you notice any of these symptoms, you need to act fast. The quicker you get help, the better your chances are for a full recovery.

First Stroke Ambulance Unveiled in Houston

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