Monday, December 8, 2014

When the Doctor Becomes the Patient

Dr. Stephen Flack was young and healthy. Like any family physician, he was tired from the long hours and stress of a busy practice. But at only 40, he was at low (to no) risk for stroke.

But on May 20, 2011, he was rushed by ambulance to the emergency department at Chambersburg Hospital with an acute Cerebral Vascular Accident… a stroke.

“I woke up that morning and 15 minutes later I felt so dizzy I had to lie down. As I tried to get ready for work the vertigo continued. I started losing feeling in my left arm and leg. My speech slurred. I was lucky my wife Tracie was home and recognized the signs of stroke,” recalls Dr. Flack.

When he arrived at the hospital, ER Physician, Dr. J. Michael Conner, Hospitalist, Dr. David Hoffmann, Radiologist, Dr. Henry Ching, and Neurologist, Dr. Stanton Sollenberger jumped into action.

At first he could still talk, but very soon that failed. Dr. Flack understood everything that was happening, but he could only lay there and listen helplessly, unable to speak.

The medical team quickly determined that Dr. Flack was having an ischemic stroke - a blood clot was blocking vital blood flow to his brain.

It was deadly serious. Every minute mattered.

As his doctors worked against the clock to save his life, Dr. Flack became increasingly paralyzed. His thoughts went to Tracie and their three kids, ages 13, 9, and 3. He thought about his busy medical practice and patients who relied on him.

He was the patient now, and he was terrified.

Although desperately worried for her husband’s life, Tracie remained strong and focused as she made life and death decisions for her husband. There were risks involved but she knew that without quick intervention, her husband could be left with devastating results and/or permanent disability.

Or, even worse, he could die.

On that day, Tracie’s courageous choices and the swift action from the highly-skilled medical team turned all that around.

With Tracie’s consent, Dr. Flack was given a special IV treatment with a clot-busting medicine called tissue plasminogen activator, or t-PA for short. There are risks with any medical treatment but the alternative for Dr. Flack was far worse.

“Thanks to the whole care team at Chambersburg Hospital I was evaluated quickly and received t-PA within one hour of arriving in the ED. Within 15 minutes I started to have feeling in my left arm,” says Dr. Flack. “I’m living proof that quick team response and access to t-PA saves lives.”

With his clot dissolved, Dr. Flack was moved to Hershey Medical Center, the nearest certified Primary Stroke Center equipped to handle any further complications he could have. Luckily for Dr. Flack there weren’t any and by the time his family joined him there he was almost back to normal.

“I was fortunate that my wife acted so quickly, I was close to our excellent local hospital, and that clot-busting medication was available and given to me in a very short window of time.”

Dr. Flack’s experience was scary for his whole family. It’s one they are glad to put behind them.

Today he enjoys a normal, healthy life, manages his stress, and makes sure he eats well and stays hydrated.

“It was only by the actions of the Chambersburg Hospital team that I have been able to make a full recovery, and be discharged four days later with no functional deficit,” Dr. Flack says frankly.

“The care I received at Chambersburg Hospital was first rate. My entire family and I give great thanks and accolades to the wonderful team of physicians and staff at Chambersburg Hospital.”

Stroke Heroes Act F.A.S.T.

Dr. Stephen Flack will be the first to tell you that awareness of stroke symptoms and taking swift action is the key to good outcomes for someone having a stroke.

His good outcome happened in 2011, thanks to his wife, Tracie’s F.A.S.T. action.

Today our mission remains the same:
Save lives and reduce the damaging and disabling effects of stroke.

Chambersburg Hospital and Waynesboro Hospital have always provided outstanding care when it comes to stroke. Now even more focused efforts are being made. We’re committed to having the right people and the right processes in place so that we can save even more lives.

“Caring for stroke patients takes several professionals from many areas of the hospital, said Dr. Sanjay Dhar, Medical Director of the hospital’s stroke program. “It has to work well, like strong links in a chain, and it is. We’re saving lives.”

On April 25, 2013, Chambersburg Hospital was awarded American Heart Association /American Stroke Association’s Bronze Award for their excellence in Stroke Care.

But we’re not stopping there. In the past, stroke patients were transferred to the closest accredited Primary Stroke Center located in Harrisburg, an hour away.

Waynesboro Hospital and Chambersburg Hospital received certification to be a Primary Stroke Centers.

Now family, friends, and neighbors can stay close to home if a stroke occurs.

You cannot change some factors that put you at risk for stroke like your age, your gender, your ethnicity or even your family medical history. But, you can lower the risk.

It could mean life or death.

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