CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Every second after a person suffers a stroke, they lose brain.
A team of neurologists at the Medical University of South Carolina wants to build a center where a stroke team comes to the patient, instead of the patient being moved around a hospital to get life-saving treatment.
“I woke up and I could not move my arm or my leg at all,” recalled Darrin Sutton. “I dragged myself to the edge of the bed. I stood up and ended up falling. That’s when I realized something is wrong.”
Sutton woke up on December 3, 2021, but his brain and body seemed disconnected. He was not in pain, but he could not make his bodywork. He had suffered a stroke.
“I made two phone calls one to my friend and one to 911,” he said. “They said ‘where do you want to go?’ I told them MUSC.”
Eight weeks later, Sutton is back at the Medical University of South Carolina, and for the first time since suffering a stroke, he met with Dr. Sami Al Kasab, who removed the blockage in his brain.
Dr. Al Kasab showed us Sutton’s surgery.
He explained about 85% of strokes are ischemic, meaning the stroke is caused by a blood clot that blocks flow to an area of the brain. Starved of blood and oxygen, brain cells begin dying.
“After we took it out, there was restoration blood flow- his symptoms improved and he went home the next day,” the doctor explained.
Dr. Christine Holmstedt said saving a person’s brain takes a lot of resources.
“It’s not as simple as with other diseases where you can just do a single test and you can say yes, that’s what it is, let’s treat it — we have to do a neuro exam, we have to get a scan of the patient, we have to get labs for the patient, we have to get a full history to make sure we can give them that clot-busting medication without hurting them. That takes a lot of team members.”
She leads a team of neurosurgeons and neurologists working to build a brain attack cave. A centralized facility where stroke patients get treatment.
“Our goal is to make it a smooth process. A patient comes in and the team descends on the patient and the patient doesn’t have to move,” Dr. Holmstedt explained.
She says South Carolina is in a region of the country known as the stroke belt. Ana rea where people are disproportionally affected by stroke.
“We’ve reduced the number of strokes and death by stroke, but we are in the stroke belt … where the rates of stroke are much higher than the rest of the country.”
Right now, the brain attack cave is just an idea. But this ambition team believes it could be a game-changer for stroke patients.
“This concept has not been attempted or done anywhere. We are fortunate at MUSC that we have vacancies that allow us the unique opportunity,” said Dr. Alex Spiotta, a neurosurgeon at MUSC. “With this concept, we can convert that space into the stroke ED Unit of the future. It has capabilities for the ER, the imaging they need, without ever moving off the bed.”
Dr. Spiotta went on to say, “We are here to shave time that will help save lives and save the brain, so we are ultra-focused on getting that patient that treatment as fast as possible. That’s what we are here to do.
Armed with a new lifestyle: no smoking, more activity, and a heart-healthy diet, Sutton said he hopes MUSC builds a bat cave that will cater to patients with no delays. Because time is of the essence when the brain matters.
The brain attack cave is again an idea by the stroke team at MUSC; it is not in the planning stage. This team is hoping by bringing awareness of the possibility for more advanced treatment in an area where strokes happen every day.