Pain in the brain

Published 7:53 pm Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sentara Obici Hospital features a 22-bed stroke unit in addition to a program that provides stroke patients and their families with information about preventing future strokes and matches the patients with an appropriate rehabilitation program to help them continue their recovery after they are discharged from the hospital.

Obici stroke center aims to treat, educate and rehabilitate

When a person suffers a stroke, the body can be seriously affected, disabled or even paralyzed.

This unpredictability is why Sentara Obici Hospital has established a stroke center to make the care and rehabilitation of these patients a priority.

The stroke program at Obici took a step toward being recognized as a premium care center for stroke patients in June by applying to be a fully accredited facility. Obici would be the fourth Sentara facility to gain accreditation.

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Stroke program coordinator Sue Fibish said she thinks the hospital should receive the letter of accreditation within a few weeks.

Fibish said it is a primary goal of Sentara Healthcare to have all of its hospitals accredited.

“When you think about it, it’s what’s best for the patient population,” she said.

Prior to the recent establishment of the 22-bed stroke unit at Obici, stroke patients were distributed in units throughout the hospital.

But now, these patients have their own unit and a full staff of nurses who are specifically trained to care for stroke patients.

The care begins the minute a stroke victim arrives at Obici, and a system alerts any personnel who will be involved in their treatment.

Fibish said some stroke patients are admitted to the intensive care unit upon arrival if they are suffering blood clots, but they are usually taken to the stroke unit, which is called a step-down unit, after about 24 hours.

“We want these patients here because all of these nurses know how to care for these patients,” she said.

In addition to helping the patient recover, Fibish said the workers on the unit want to educate the patients and their families on how they can avoid another stroke.

“We try to do the best we can to teach the patient and (his or her) family,” she said.

The stroke unit employees give patients information about lifestyle changes that can help prevent strokes, such as healthy eating and exercising, and they also talk to them about how some conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure can lead to strokes.

Fibish said education is the best way to reduce the number of strokes that occur.

Also, the stroke center employees try to educate the families, especially children, to recognize the signs of a stroke and get help as soon as possible.

Another component of the stroke program’s recovery process is the selection of a rehabilitation treatment for all patients.

Fibish said in order to figure out what type of rehab program each patient requires, a group of physical therapists and social workers meet with the patient.

She said they discuss the options and decide on the best choice for the patient.

Some patients need to go through intensive rehab that requires a physical therapist come to their homes to help them. However, other patients are advised to visit a rehab facility on their own.

Fibish said rehab and education are critical elements for people who have suffered a stroke.

She said strokes do not result in death very often; instead, patients can sometimes suffer two or three strokes that get progressively worse each time.

Stroke is a leading cause of serious, long-term disability, according to the Virginia Stroke Systems Task Force.

But the Obici stroke center’s attention to the patients doesn’t end when they leave the facility. Fibish said the nurses regularly call the patients to check up on them, and she gives her patients her home phone number to call if they have questions.

Obici also has a stroke survivor support group that meets every other month.

For more information on strokes, visit