Kay D. - When Every Second Counts
On a warm Sunday afternoon in October, Kay Davis, 68, took her beloved dog—an energetic rat terrier named Hunter—for a walk in her Covington neighborhood. It could have been a day just like any other; she and Hunter take the same walk all the time. But at about 6 p.m., everything changed. “I took a step and went oooh,” she recalls. “The numbness started in my big toe, then spread to my other toes until my entire foot was numb. Then my leg went numb. My arm and hand were numb before I knew it. I started to sway. That’s when I knew it was serious.”
Fortunately, Davis’ friend Maureen Kennedy was with her and recognized that she might be experiencing a stroke. Kennedy, a retired nurse, knew that every second counts. Because “time is brain,” the sooner the patient is treated, the better the outcome. Davis was rushed to St. Tammany Parish Hospital, also in Covington. Partnered with Ochsner since 2014, St. Tammany has access to many of Ochsner’s world-class resources and technologies. One of these is the TeleStroke program, in which Ochsner specialists give patients live consultations via video. With the program now at 33 partnering hospitals, Ochsner makes some 1,800 TeleStroke consults each year—bringing swift diagnoses and treatments to patients who otherwise would not have access to top neurological experts.
Using this program, Dr. Richard Zweifler, Ochsner’s System Chair of Neurology, was able to diagnose Davis remotely and recommended that she be promptly treated with the clot-busting drug tPA. “A stroke is a very time-sensitive disease, with nearly 2 million brain cells lost each minute,” says Dr. Zweifler. “Having an efficient multidisciplinary team to treat patients is critical, and with TeleStroke, I was at her bedside in less than a minute after St. Tammany contacted me.” Because the teamwork between the two hospitals was so efficient, Davis was able to receive her critical tPA injection at about 7 p.m.—less than an hour after she started to feel symptoms.
The numbness started in my big toe, then spread to my other toes until my entire foot was numb. Then my leg went numb. My arm and hand were numb before I knew it.
Dr. Zweifler also requested that she be transferred to Ochsner’s Jefferson Highway campus as soon as possible. As the only Ochsner hospital in the region that offers a procedure in which clots in the brain can be mechanically removed, he wanted to ensure that Davis was onsite in case she needed the surgery.
In short order, an emergency helicopter arrived at St. Tammany Parish Hospital to quickly and safely transport Davis to Ochsner. The helicopter was dispatched by Ochsner’s Regional Referral Center, which contacted Ochsner’s Flight Care Team, a 24/7 transport service for critically ill patients.
Specially trained critical care nurses continued administering the tPA during the flight, which arrived at Ochsner within minutes. A CT angiogram revealed that Davis did not have a blood clot in a major artery in her brain, so she didn’t need specialized surgery. She spent three nights in the hospital before being discharged.
Today, Davis has almost fully recovered, and Dr. Zweifler expects her to be 100 percent before long. “I was relieved to have so many exceptional people help me,” says Davis, who is in physical therapy to help build up her strength. “The care was extraordinary every step of the way, from the St. Tammany medical staff and Dr. Zweifler and his team to the flight crew and the wonderful nurses. I am very thankful.”
Best of all, Davis says she is “almost back to my old self,” which means spending quality time with family and friends, resuming her work as an accountant, and going on her daily— and, thankfully, much less eventful— walks with Hunter at her side.