Dr. Stephen Flack, physician with Summit Primary Care, answers a question at the conclusion of the recent free community seminar on stroke. Pictured with him are, left to right, Dr. John Mingle, neurologist and medical director of WellSpan's stroke program in York, and Dr. Sanjay Dhar, medical director of Summit Health's stroke program.
Tuesday, May 31, 2016

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Time is brain, meaning the faster action is taken when you or a loved one experiences a believed cerebrovascular accident, or a stroke, the greater the likelihood for a full recovery.

About 2 million brain cells die for every minute blood does not circulate into the brain during a stroke, which occurs when a vessel in the brain ruptures or becomes blocked by a blood clot. Strokes are the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States and the nation’s fifth-leading cause of death.

Close to 60 community members attended Summit Health’s free stroke seminar Thursday at Wilson College’s Brooks Complex auditorium and heard details on the risk factors and symptoms of a stroke; need for quick medical care; and the life-saving treatments administered to stroke patients.

In any scenario where a stroke is suspected, the best course of action is to call 911 quickly, according to Dr. Sanjay Dhar, medical director of Summit Health’s stroke program.

“It’s always better to err on the side of caution to seek medical attention immediately by calling 911,” he told community members.

“Call 911 every time,” echoed Dr. John Mingle neurologist and medical director of WellSpan’s stroke program in York, who discussed the Telestroke program. The Telestroke program enables neurologists who are on-call to evaluate a possible stroke patient and their diagnostic tests via high-quality video conference.

“This happens very fast. I can evaluate patients through telemedicine as quickly as I can in person. The only difference is I can’t reach out and touch them,” said Dr. Mingle. “The technology is so good that I can scan in and look at their pupils to see how they react to light.”

Dr. Mingle also spoke about the clot-busting medicine, tPA, as well as some newer treatment options designed to rapidly remove clots from inside blood vessels in the brain.

While advanced age increases your risk for a stroke, anyone can experience one, even if they don’t appear to have risk factors.

“The risk of stroke goes up with age, but no age is immune,” noted Dr. Dhar.

A testament to quick action

The seminar also featured the story of Dr. Stephen Flack, a provider at Summit Primary Care, who suffered a stroke in 2011 at the age of 40.

“It changed my life dramatically,” said Dr. Flack, who noted that while he had no risk factors for stroke, he did not often take measures to practice self-care.

“Like a lot of people, I didn’t take tremendously good care of myself,” Dr. Flack explained. “I didn’t always eat breakfast, I sometimes skipped lunch, I didn’t work out like I should.”

Dr. Flack went to bed exhausted and with a dull headache on the night of May 19 thinking he was just drained from the demands of his schedule. Soon after he awoke on May 20, however, it became clear he was having a stroke and his wife, Tracie, called 911.

When Dr. Flack arrived at the Chambersburg Hospital emergency department, the staff and physicians acted quickly, assessing his rapidly worsening condition and recommending he receive tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, a clot-dissolving treatment given intravenously.

“I was trying to give them the thumbs up, but I could not even do that,” he said of his effort to confirm he wanted the treatment.

Dr. Flack credits the quick action taken by his wife and the Chambersburg Hospital emergency department with saving his life.

“If I would have waited another hour, another half hour, maybe even just another 15 minutes, it could have been too late for me.”

About an hour after the clot-busting drug was administered in the emergency department, he was life-flighted to the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. By the time he arrived in Hershey, he had recovered full function of his body.

“The doctors at Hershey told me that everything that needed to be done to save my life was done here in Chambersburg. This is again where I say what a great medical system we have.”

In addition to the guest speakers, community members who attended the seminar enjoyed free blood pressure screenings and were able to participate in a question-and-answer session following the presentations.

Stroke symptoms

  • Tingling, numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Severe headache with no known cause

For more information on stroke, click here.