WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — One every 40 seconds and nearly 800,000 people per year — that is how often strokes occur. It is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the 6th in Kansas.

When someone suffers one, the minutes following are crucial.

“Every minute that goes by, brain cells are dying,” explained Lenzi Kaub, Comprehensive Stroke Program Coordinator at Ascension Via Christi.

Ascension Via Christi is one of two comprehensive stroke centers in Kansas. This is the highest level of stroke care. Their team is prepped 24/7 year-round.

The moment signs of a stroke are seen, you’re asked to call 911 instead of driving to the hospital.

“Activating EMS is very important because they begin the notification process immediately. They also can do pre-screening assessments to decide what level of care is needed,” Kaub said.

EMS then shares that information with Ascension Via Christi’s team.

“Before the patient even arrives, our team is ready and assigned to them, and as soon as the patient walks through the door, we are initiating that lifesaving stroke care,” she said.

Once the patient arrives, they are rushed to get a Computerized Tomography (CT) scan on their head. Based on the results, they can be directed to a variety of treatments and suites.

“Having an entire system that’s built to take care of a complex stroke patient from beginning to end is one of the things that makes a huge difference here,” said Dr. James Walker, Medical Director of Neurocritical Care and Stroke at Ascension Via Christi St. Francis.

“It shaves off hours of transport time, you know, getting the patient ready and prepped. So this can really make the difference on the treatments available and what deficits that patient will experience for the rest of their life,” Kaub added.

As a comprehensive stroke center, Via Christi sees stroke patients daily.

Dr. Walker mentioned even some survivors return later on, “When they left here, they couldn’t walk, and they couldn’t talk and when they come back a few months later and are able to thank us for what we’ve done. It’s really rewarding.”

The acronym, FAST, has long been used to educate others on identifying stroke:

  • F — Facial drooping. Does one side of the face droop? Ask the person to smile. Does it appear lopsided?
  • A — Arm weakness. Can the person lift both arms?
  • S — Speech. Is their speech slurred or hard to understand? Ask a simple question, does their response sound garbled?
  • T — Time to call 911. If the person exhibits any of the previous symptoms, call 911 and get them safely to the hospital.

Recently, “BE” was added to the front of the acronym to assess the person’s balance and eyes.

“If someone’s having trouble with balance or walking, a new onset of that would be a sign. Also, the E is for eyes. So if there’s any change in vision, double vision, blurry vision, anything like that,” Kaub explained.

To learn more about Ascension Via Christi’s Comprehensive Stroke Center, click here.