NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — Teri Ackerson’s left arm abruptly went numb in May 2013. Then the left side of her face sagged, and she could no longer talk.
Ackerson knew what that meant: She was having a stroke.
The nurse and former stroke coordinator at Saint Peter’s University Hospital also knew what to do. She stayed calm as she jotted down the timing of her symptoms and what, exactly, she experienced. Her son helped her get medical treatment, and within a month, she had bounced back well enough to run a marathon.
It’s no surprise that a Saint Peter’s stroke team member knew how to handle her own incident. The New Brunswick-based hospital recently earned a Get With the Guidelines-Stoke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart and Stroke associations, honoring the medical center for its treatment of stroke patients and commitment to industry guidelines.
“This recognition further demonstrates our commitment to delivering advanced stroke treatments to patients quickly and safely,” Philip Hartman, the hospital system’s spokesperson, said in a statement. “Saint Peter’s continues to strive for excellence in the acute treatment of stroke patients. The recognition from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke further reinforces our team’s hard work.”
Hospitals that win this award use “the most up-to-date, evidenced-based” practices in treating stroke patients, according to Saint Peter’s. That entails the “aggressive” administration of clot-busting and anti-clotting drugs, blood thinners and medicines that cut down on cholesterol, along with preventive measures, like counseling for smokers.
Hospitals must adhere to at least 85 percent of the guidelines for at least two one-year periods to receive the award, according to Saint Peter’s. They must also achieve a compliance level of at least 75 percent in five of eight quality measures.
The heart and stroke associations designed the award in 2003 as a motivator to help hospitals “save lives and improve recovery time,” according to Saint Peter’s. It has since “impacted” more than 3 million patients, the hospital said.
Strokes are the fifth-leading cause of death among American adults. It’s also a “leading cause” of disabilities in the country, according to the hospital.
On average, someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke every 40 seconds and dies of a stroke every four minutes. Roughly 800,000 people undergo a stroke each year, according to the hospital.
“The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association recognize Saint Peter’s for its commitment to stroke care,” Paul Heidenreich, national chairman of the Get With The Guidelines Steering Committee and a Stanford University professor of medicine, said in a statement. “Research has shown there are benefits to patients who are treated at hospitals that have adopted the Get With The Guidelines program.”
Ackerson, the former stroke coordinator who suffered a stroke of her own, agrees.
“Without the treatment I received, I would not have recovered as well as I did,” she said.