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Duke Stroke team, survivors celebrate victories against stroke

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Health-care providers and survivors celebrated victories over stroke, from the personal to the hospital-wide level, at the Duke Stroke Team Stars event on Thursday, March 8.

For members of the Duke Comprehensive Stroke Center, the event was a chance to celebrate both the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association's Get With the Guidelines – Stroke recent “Gold Plus” ranking, the highest ranking the Association offers, as well as a more than 50 percent reduction in the “door-to-needle” time for providing tPA to stroke patients over the past year.

Two stroke survivors also shared their own victories such as relearning to walk, talk and cycle, and vowing to live a fulfilling life after a stroke. When Jeff Charles was brought to Duke University Hospital a year ago, a nurse told his wife that Charles would likely never walk, talk or be able to care for himself again. After six weeks in the hospital and months of rehabilitation and therapy, Charles is active, back at home and advocating for other survivors.


Charles, left, is walking, talking, and cycling again after a stroke one year ago.

“Life after stroke is like walking a tightrope. I have to ask myself every day how am I going to get from here to there without a net. The Duke team gave me the tools to make that walk,” Charles said. “I will be grateful for the team here at Duke for the rest of my life.”

Another stroke survivor, Alejandra Martinez, told her story of having an ischemic stroke on her 48th birthday in a recorded message. Martinez’ stroke is the first recorded instance of social media being used to determine the time of a stroke--her sister, Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, MD, who also attended the event, noted that Martinez had posted her favorite song, “You only live once,” on Facebook at midnight to celebrate her birthday hours after the emergency department first estimated the time for stroke.

Stroke neurologist Carmelo Graffagnino, MD, opened the event with a reminder about how stroke treatment has changed since he became a neurologist. “When I was a resident all we could do when someone had a stroke was observe,” Graffagnino said. “It was like being an electrician without a screwdriver. Now we have power drills.”


Graffagnino, center, presents brain pins to recognize the team that provided "NASCAR-like efficiency" in stroke treatment.

Graffagnino also thanked the interdisciplinary teams from throughout Duke Hospital, including neurologists, neurosurgeons, nurses, paramedics, occupational and physical therapists, and others, who provide stroke care.

The event closed with Graffagnino presenting brain pins to the team that provided “NASCAR-like efficiency” in the speed they provided tPA for a stroke patient--just 13 minutes from the time the stroke patient came to the hospital until they were provided care. “The Joint Commission recommends that stroke patients get tPA within an hour--and less than half of patients nationwide get that. However, we don’t have an hour. Every minute a person doesn’t get tPA, they’re losing brain cells. When we can provide patients with treatment that quickly we’re really making a difference.”

Click here to view a photo album of the event.