COVID-19 fears keeping people from reporting strokes to hospitals

National News

LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — May is Stroke Awareness Month and health care providers are concerned by the latest numbers. The Louisiana Emergency Response Network, also known as LERN, says fewer patients than normal are presenting to hospitals with stroke symptoms. The decrease in numbers began when the COVID-19 crisis began in Louisiana.

“On a typical day, I see about 16 to 20 patients,” said LGMC Stroke Coordinator Chanda Babineaux. “In the past couple of weeks when COVID-19 ramped up, I’ve been seeing anywhere from nine to 10 on a daily basis.”

And when they ask patients the reason for waiting?

“Either they were scared to come to the hospital for fear of COVID, or they just thought it was something that was going to go away because it was coming and going throughout the day,” said Babineaux.

“BE FAST” when watching for signs of a stroke.

  • B stands for balance, also severe dizziness.
  • E stands for eyes — a sudden loss of vision including peripheral
  • F is for face. Watch for any drooping, especially around the mouth or eyes
  • A is for arms — weakness or numbness in the arms or even legs, especially on one side of the body
  • S stands for speech. Is the person slurring, unable to speak or confused?
  • And T represents time. Getting help quickly is critical according to Dr. Kris Lindsay with Cardiovascular Institute of the South.

“When it comes to strokes time is of the essence,” said Lindsay. “Time is brain tissue. You only have a certain amount of time to impact that person’s long term trajectory.”

“There are many things we can do now to help you recover from stroke but all of those things are dependent on when your symptoms started,” said LGMC Stroke Nurse Samantha Cormier.

Cormier encourages everyone to get to a hospital even if your symptoms start and then go away because it may be a transient ischemic attack — a TIA. TIA is your body sounding the alarm.

“With TIA, that is one of the biggest warning signs that a bigger stroke is on the way so when you ignore that you don’t get the stroke work up, you don’t learn that you should be taking certain medicines or watch your cholesterol or whatever your personal risk factors are and then a bigger stroke comes and the symptoms don’t get better,” she said.

Hospitals want patients to know they’re prepared to keep all patients safe from COVID-19. You or your loved one should not hesitate to seek treatment if you see signs of a stroke. Every minute matters.

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