By CLAIRE MEYLAN | Intern
Stroke is the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of long-term disability in the United States. Approximately 795,000 people suffer from a stroke each year.
Palisadians Pamela Nye and Dana Rivera are two key individuals fighting back against strokes’ debilitating effects at UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica’s Stroke Center.
UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica was recently named a Primary Stroke Center, which distinguishes the center as complying with the most effective practices for stroke care. The accreditation was given by the Joint Commission, one of America’s leading agencies.
As a result, the hospital’s Nethercutt Emergency Center is now able to receive and treat likely stroke patients from paramedics. Becoming a certified center takes several months of preparation and careful planning, as well as a core stroke team made up of health professionals.
Nye is busy with three central roles at UCLA—she is the clinical nurse specialist for neuroscience, the stroke coordinator and an associate professor at the UCLA school of nursing. Additionally, Nye is one of three members of the center’s Core Stroke Team.
A typical day for Nye begins with checking the hospital census for new stroke patients, visiting them, and giving support and stroke education to their families. Throughout the day, Nye uses her expertise to guide nurses in providing care to neurologically complicated stroke cases.
“If you have a good hospital experience,” Nye explained about her work, “there’s probably a clinical nurse specialist somewhere in the background.”
Rivera contributes to the UCLA Stroke Center by sharing her story. Rivera, a stroke survivor, leads the UCLA Stroke Support Group.
In 2009, Rivera suffered an ischemic stroke at the age of 44. After losing all the feeling on her left side, Rivera worked tediously to recover. She pushed herself through scheduled walks and yoga to regain mobility.
A year after her stroke, she decided to share her story, which led to a volunteer position at UCLA Stroke Support Group. In addition to UCLA, Rivera has been facilitating support groups at Saint John’s Health Center, Presbyterian Church in the Palisades and University Synagogue in Brentwood.
Rivera’s support groups focus on stroke recovery and discuss stroke’s physical and emotional effects. Her UCLA support group is held every third Wednesday at UCLA Santa Monica from 3 to 4 p.m. The next time the group is scheduled to meet is Aug. 16.
UCLA’s Stroke Center has earned additional praise in the form of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s “Get With the Guidelines – Stroke Silver-Plus Quality Achievement Award.” The award praises the hospital for their use of the highest quality methods in stroke care as determined by national standards and recommendations.
For those interested in what they can do to prevent and recognize strokes, Nye has important advice. The most common stroke symptoms include numbness in the face, arms, or legs, inability to speak or understand words, loss of balance, headache, and loss of vision.
Responding quickly to a stroke is the top priority.
“People need to know how urgent it is for them to react to the signs and symptoms of stroke, nearly two million brain cells are lost for every one minute a stroke goes untreated,” Nye said.
According to Nye, much of stroke prevention is a result of individual choices.
“Prevention of stroke is an individual responsibility: eat a heart-healthy diet, move about more, stop smoking, lose a little weight, manage your blood pressure, glucose and animal fat intake,” she shared. “You would be surprised how making just a few lifestyle changes can reduce your likelihood of suffering a stroke.
“This message is for everyone—young and old alike—strokes even happen in teenagers and children.”
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