How HCA Healthcare is working to prevent, treat and beat stroke

Two caregivers helping a stroke patient out of bed
Every 40 seconds, someone in the U.S. has a stroke.

Did you know someone in the U.S. has a stroke every 40 seconds? Stroke is a leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of serious disability for adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It is also preventable and treatable.

So, what exactly is a stroke? A stroke occurs when part of the brain is cut off from blood and oxygen due to a blood clot or broken blood vessel. In just minutes, strokes can cause lasting brain damage, and delayed treatment increases the risk of permanent disability and death. Knowledge of stroke risk factors and symptoms is crucial to reducing the likelihood of and improving the outcome of a stroke.

The American Heart Association’s Getting to the Heart of Stroke™ initiative, developed in conjunction with HCA Healthcare — our broader healthcare network — and the HCA Healthcare Foundation, focuses on preventing, treating and beating stroke by:

  • Providing nationwide consumer and healthcare professional education.
  • Deepening collaboration between neurology and cardiology.
  • Equitably empowering communities to improve health outcomes.

With individualized health education efforts in 15 local communities across the U.S., the initiative highlights the powerful connection between heart and brain health.

“What’s good for the heart is good for the brain, but the reverse is also true: problems with the heart, including AFib, are well-documented as major stroke risk factors,” says Nancy Brown, chief executive officer, American Heart Association. “To effectively combat stroke, we need to work together and elevate the heart-brain connection among health care professionals, while simultaneously addressing health disparities and resource gaps in our communities. We are not a one-size-fits-all nation, and neither is the most successful approach to public health.”

Know your risk

Stroke prevention starts with knowing the risk factors that increase the likelihood of having a stroke. Identifying the underlying cause of a stroke is also crucial to preventing subsequent strokes. Common risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, alcohol or drug abuse, or heart disease. If you have any of these risk factors, it is important to discuss them with your doctor to manage and reduce your chance of stroke.

For example, patients diagnosed with atrial fibrillation are up to five times more likely to experience a stroke. The American Heart Association’s patient support network, MyAFibExperience, empowers individuals to better understand and manage their stroke risk.

As part of the Getting to the Heart of StrokeTM initiative, the American Heart Association will work alongside the HCA Healthcare Foundation and HCA Healthcare to implement community education as well as professional education focused on identifying stroke risk factors projected through the lens of equitable health for all.

Working closely with thought leaders in healthcare, including those from HCA Healthcare, the American Heart Association will also develop accredited education programming that will be available to all healthcare professionals, and a specific learning collaborative with 10 HCA Healthcare facilities focused on continuously improving the quality of care.

“We are proud to be collaborating with the American Heart Association,” says Dr. Steven Manoukian, HCA Healthcare senior vice president and Fellow of the American Heart Association. “Within both organizations, we recognize that increased education and connectivity between our neurology and cardiology health care teams, patients and communities are integral to reducing the devastation of stroke, determining its underlying cardiac causes, such as AFib and structural heart disease, and preventing future strokes. Through this unique and multi-faceted initiative with the AHA, everyone will become better at Getting to the Heart of Stroke.”

Know the signs

When a stroke occurs, getting treatment fast is crucial to decreasing the long-lasting effects of stroke. The signs of a stroke can be thought of with the acronym, BE FAST. Here are the symptoms that could mean you or your loved one is having a stroke:

  • Balance or the inability to maintain coordination
  • Eyes or the inability to see out of one or both
  • Face that is drooping on one side
  • Arms or the inability to raise one or both
  • Speech or the inability to repeat a simple sentence

And if you or someone around you is experiencing the symptoms above, it is

  • Time to call 911 and seek emergency care.

HCA Healthcare has a long history of prioritizing and working to continually improve patient safety. This includes reducing our average door-to-needle time to 34 minutes, which is faster than the national standard for stroke care.

Share with your community

In order to beat stroke, we must decrease stroke for every member of our communities. HCA Healthcare and the HCA Healthcare Foundation are dedicated to advancing health equity and bettering stroke care in all patient subsets, including all races and ethnicities. Some patient subsets, such as Black and Hispanic/Latinx populations, face additional barriers to identifying and treating stroke risk factors, receiving thorough assessment and finding follow-up stroke care.

Getting to the Heart of StrokeTM addresses health disparities like this through local health impact work and community education in areas including women’s health, high blood pressure management, nutrition security and tobacco/vaping prevention.

You can make a difference in your community by sharing your knowledge of stroke care and prevention with others. By sharing the resources in this article, along with additional resources provided by the American Heart Association, American Stroke Association and the Getting to the Heart of StrokeTM initiative, with your family and friends who may be at risk for stroke, you can help save lives.

Inspiring stories of stroke survivors

Across HCA Healthcare, we hear countless stories from stroke patients and those who care for them. We know that stroke can happen to anyone at any time. This American Stroke Month, read four powerful stories of stroke survival and learn more about how to recognize stroke and what to do if stroke happens.

Florida mother shares her stroke story to ensure other young adults are aware of their risk

Mother and daughter on a playground
HCA Healthcare stroke patient Crystal Warp (right) and her mother (left).

HCA Healthcare patient Crystal Warp is a 39-year-old mother of three who, after surviving and recovering from a stroke, is sharing her recent health scare to make sure other young adults are aware of their risk. Crystal’s experience comes as doctors across the country are witnessing a concerning trend – adults under 50 are having more strokes than ever before.

When Crystal was recently preparing to attend her weekly quilter’s class, she began experiencing tingling and numbness in her leg, dizziness and a terrible headache. After witnessing Crystal’s speech difficulty and body weakness, Crystal’s mother, Kicha Padmore-Johnson, rushed her to HCA Florida Poinciana Hospital in Kissimmee, Florida.

Once they arrived at the hospital, one of the nurses quickly noticed Crystal’s stroke-like symptoms and rushed her back for an assessment, where doctors discovered a brain bleed. Crystal had suffered an intracerebral hemorrhage, or ICH stroke.

Crystal spent several days in the hospital’s intensive care unit, followed by weeks at HCA Florida Osceola Hospital’s onsite acute inpatient physical rehabilitation center, where she would regain the function of her hands and body with intensive physical and occupational therapy, including a comprehensive rehabilitation program specifically for post-stroke patients.

“The loss of movement after stroke was overwhelming to me. The self-doubt and sadness that came from not being able to go home to my kids, not being able to be there for them like I was before, not being able to craft, which provides for my family – it was devastating,” Crystal said.

“But the nurses and therapists at the hospital were amazing and encouraged me every step of the way. To me, HCA Healthcare is family. I have a forever family in some of the people who took care of me. I’m out of the hospital and they still check on me.”

Crystal Warp, HCA Healthcare stroke patient

Crystal is nearly fully recovered more than a month after her stroke. She couldn’t wait to create custom creations from her craft business for each HCA Healthcare colleague who cared for her as a thank you. She recently visited the team to show how she is now able to walk unassisted.

HCA Healthcare colleagues and stroke survivor smile for picture in hospital hallway
HCA Healthcare stroke patient Crystal Warp (middle) recently returned to HCA Florida Osceola Hospital to say thank you to her caregivers.

“It is not lost on me that when I spend time with my family, play with my kids, and for the first time after my stroke, walk by myself, it is because a family of physicians, nurses, therapists and others that gave me my life back. For that, I am forever grateful.”

Crystal Warp, HCA Healthcare stroke patient

Texas hospital honors ‘miracle’ stroke survivor

HCA Healthcare colleagues helping a stroke patient stand
HCA Healthcare stroke patient Jeremy Simmons received care at HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest in Texas.

A Houston stroke survivor’s recovery is described as a “miracle” by his loved ones and surgeon. Earlier this year, 42-year-old HCA Healthcare patient Jeremy Simmons collapsed and fell unconscious while at his home.

Jeremy was rushed to HCA Houston Healthcare North Cypress Hospital after his wife called 9-1-1. There, doctors discovered he had had a stroke, four brain aneurysms and excessive bleeding to the brain. Jeremy was then transported for advanced care to sister facility, HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest.

In a split second, the lives of Jeremy’s entire family were turned upside down. His wife recalls the most challenging part was maintaining some sense of normalcy for their five-year-old daughter, who had to go 28 days without seeing her dad.

According to Dr. Shamaelah Javed, a neuroendovascular surgeon at HCA Houston Healthcare Northwest, Jeremy’s case was unique due to major bleeding occurring at his young age. She said he had a rare malformation affecting only 1 in 600,000 people, and 70% of patients in these cases don’t even make it to the hospital.

“[Jeremy’s recovery] is basically attributed to the kind of care that he got in the hospital along with the treatment we offered,” Dr. Javed told the Houston Chronicle. “This is like a miracle because his chances of walking out of the hospital were very long.”

Father hugs his daughter in a hospital bed
HCA Healthcare stroke patient Jeremy Simmons hugs his daughter while recovering in the hospital.

Dr. Javed said the use of new devices and technology helped throughout the process. “He just came back to see me a couple of weeks ago and he’s doing very well. He’s recovered a lot. So, I think the new treatment modalities that we have has made a huge difference in his recovery.”

Family members are also integral in the stroke care journey. Jeremy’s wife, Laura, told the Houston Chronicle it is important to seek treatment immediately if you’re experiencing symptoms.

“If there’s something unusual like migraines or numbness to your arms or blurred vision, just don’t waste any time. Get to the doctor immediately,” she said. “And obviously, as anybody knows, you’re your biggest advocate for yourself and your health. Talk as a family. I had no idea that strokes ran in both sides of this family very strongly and I didn’t realize this until he was in the hospital.”

Jeremy’s wife acknowledges that their family has a long road ahead of them, but knows he will continue to beat the odds and progress every day. Now on the mend, Jeremy looks forward to spending time with his wife, who was at his bedside every day of his recovery, and his daughter.

Recognizing the signs of a stroke saved a South Carolina man’s life

Doctor with his arm around a stroke patient.
HCA Healthcare stroke survivor Nate Robinson (left) and the medical director of Trident Medical Center’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit Dr. Douglas McGill (right).

“If it weren’t for you, there wouldn’t be a me.” Those words were spoken through tears by HCA Healthcare patient and stroke survivor, Nate Robinson. The 51-year-old credits both his co-worker at Volvo, Shavon Felder, and the care team at Trident Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina, with saving his life.

On December 21, 2022, Shavon noticed Nate’s speech was slurred when he was talking to her at work.  “When he first said my name, it was slurred and I knew it wasn’t right. So, I asked him to repeat it,” explained Felder. “I told him to look at me and noticed his face was looking funny. Then, he told me he thought he was dragging a leg. I said, ‘Oh no, you’re having a stroke’.”

They quickly called 9-1-1, and Nate was transported to Trident Medical Center for emergency stroke care. The South Carolina hospital was recently ranked among the top 100 Hospitals in America for stroke care in 2023.

After receiving speech, occupational and physical therapy at Trident Medical Center’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit, Nate’s caregivers held a red carpet celebration to celebrate his recovery. Nate said, “Once your speech, eating and walking have been disturbed you will know how difficult it is to start over again. So, I say to anyone who is listening, don’t take those things for granted. In a moment’s notice, they can be taken from you.”

Walking down the red carpet at the hospital, Nate was able to thank Shavon and his care team, while also spreading smiles by bowing once he reached the end. With a smile and cheers from everyone around, Nate said, “Thank you for giving me my life back.” 

Texas patient suffers stroke at 29-years-old

HCA Healthcare patient walking down stairs in a physical therapy setting.
HCA Healthcare patient Daniel Gainer works with his rehabilitation team after suffering a stroke at 29-years-old.

A stroke at the age of 29 was not something HCA Healthcare patient Daniel Gainer ever expected to experience. “This was my first real health problem, and out of nowhere, it just happened,” Daniel told Fox News this American Stroke Month.

Daniel’s wife, Denisha, recalls him complaining of a terrible headache the day after Thanksgiving. They later learned that the headache was a stroke that ultimately led to a brain bleed.

Denisha and Daniel rushed to HCA Houston Healthcare in Houston, Texas, where Daniel faced multiple organ failures.

Daniel’s physician, Dr. Mohammed El-Ghanem, informed his family about the unfavorable odds. With incredible skill and expertise, Dr. El-Ghanem’s team worked to stop the bleeding and reverse the young 29-year-old’s organ failure.  

Daniel recently celebrated his 30th birthday – a milestone Daniel said would not have been possible without his care team at HCA Houston Healthcare.

About HCA Healthcare

HCA Healthcare, one of the nation's leading providers of healthcare services, is comprised of 183 hospitals and more than 2,300 sites of care, in 20 states and the United Kingdom. Our more than 283,000 colleagues are connected by a single purpose — to give patients healthier tomorrows.

As an enterprise, we recognize the significant responsibility we have as a leading healthcare provider within each of the communities we serve, as well as the opportunity we have to improve the lives of the patients for whom we are entrusted to care. Through the compassion, knowledge and skill of our caregivers, and our ability to leverage our scale and innovative capabilities, HCA Healthcare is in a unique position to play a leading role in the transformation of care.

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