Quick thinking proves a lifesaver
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River Falls Area Hospital is designated an acute stroke ready hospital by the State, which means that medical staff is prepared to stabilize stroke patients and administer life-saving medications. Patients have 24-hours access to stroke care experts at United Hospital in St. Paul.

Quick thinking proves a lifesaver

expert stroke care with aquatic supervisor Ken Giske
Ken Giske, pictured with Cyndy Bayer, RN, is happy to be back at work and have no side effects from his stroke.

Expert stroke care helps with complete recovery

As aquatic supervisor at Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Minneapolis, Ken Giske often works with people recovering from stroke. So when he felt his left hand suddenly go numb in fall 2010, he knew just what to do. “I looked at my wife and said, ‘Let's go,’ ” Giske recalled. “Within 10 minutes we were in the Emergency Department.”

Giske was lucky because he recognized the numbness as a warning sign of a stroke. He was also fortunate because he headed straight to River Falls Area Hospital, which offers the latest in stroke care and provides patients the best chance for survival and recovery.

“They saved my life, no question,” Giske said of the doctors and nurses at River Falls Area Hospital.

A medical emergency

A stroke is an emergency. Stroke symptoms include:

  • sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • sudden trouble walking, loss of balance or coordination
  • sudden severe headache

Though Giske’s symptoms weren’t dramatic, they came on suddenly—the key warning. “Too many people decide to wait and see if they feel better,” said Cyndy Bayer, RN, trauma coordinator at River Falls Area Hospital. “It’s always better to err on the safe side, come in and have us send you home than to have the long-term effects of a stroke.”

Immediate response

When Giske arrived at River Falls Area Hospital, Bayer called a “Code Stroke.” At that notice, a specialized stroke team responds immediately to the Emergency Department. Within minutes, patients undergo a CT scan. A CT provides detailed pictures of the brain. The neurologist and neuroradiologist located at United Hospital, a certified Primary Stroke Center, are able to see the CT remotely, confirm the diagnosis and recommend treatment.

When Giske’s CT confirmed a stroke, he was given a clot-busting medicine called tPA. Receiving tPA within one hour of stroke symptoms offers the best chance at complete recovery. That’s why it’s so important that people come to River Falls Area Hospital right away, Bayer explained. “The sooner we can dissolve the blood clot in the artery of the brain and improve blood flow, the better the outcome.”

Once tPA is started, stroke patients are transferred to United Hospital Intensive Care. There, stroke experts can provide sophisticated monitoring and advanced treatment, as necessary.

Thanks to his fast response and the excellent care he received at River Falls Area Hospital, Giske made a full recovery. His advice to others: “Recognize the signs and act immediately. Don’t mess around,” he urged. “And if you’re not sure, go anyway.”