Stroke victims need treatment within 3 hours

Posted 2/28/19

Let's clean out the notebook ... • I was doing a feature the other day on Dr. Paola Tumminello, a neurologist at Walker Baptist Medical Center. However, she kept hammering home one point that …

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Stroke victims need treatment within 3 hours


Let's clean out the notebook ... 

• I was doing a feature the other day on Dr. Paola Tumminello, a neurologist at Walker Baptist Medical Center. However, she kept hammering home one point that was so important to her - and which did seem alarmingly simple but urgent - that I thought I would share that segment here. 

If she could get your attention about one thing, it would be that if you are having a stroke, you need to go to the hospital within three hours. 

"People who have chest pains, they go to the emergency room immediately," she said. "People might not be able to move one arm, or one leg, or they cannot speak, and they go to sleep. They go to rest. 'Oh, if I go to rest I'm going to get better,' they say. The problem with a stroke is that we have a three-hour window in any hospital to give TPA."

According to, TPA is brand name for alteplase, an injectable drug used over the past 10 or 15 years to treat blood clot situations. 

"Alteplase is to be given within three hours within the onset of symptoms. If someone wakes up with stroke symptoms, we cannot give it to them because we don't know when in the night" the condition occurred, she said. "But if someone is up and about, and all of a sudden they become confused, the left arm, the right arm, left leg, right leg — on one side of the body is weak and they cannot speak. One side of the face is drooping. One side of the body becomes numb.

"If I can just beg them, please go to the closest emergency room and not to be stubborn and stay home," she said. 

Moreover, usually the person around the stroke victim has to intervene for that person, as the patient will usually not recognize he is having a stroke. 

"People have to realize that when the brain is sick, the brain does not recognize the weakness," Tumminello said. "We are taught that if we have chest pain, we go to the emergency room. But when the brain is affected by a brain attack, the brain does not recognize the illness. So it is the family who has to literally drag them kicking and screaming to the emergency room. The patient, most of the time, will not come in." 

She said if you see something in a loved one, do something.

"People don't want to offend Mom or Dad," she said. "People don't want to upset the spouse. But in this case, we are not upsetting anybody." To do nothing is to "deny them essential care." 

She urged families to let the medical personnel decide whether it is a stroke or not.

"Don't decide. It is better to come to the emergency room for nothing than to have a stroke and come to the emergency room the next day when there is nothing we can do about it," she said. "This is literally a question of time - three hours." 

As an additional note, she noted that while heart attack patients are told to take a regular aspirin, possible stroke patients are told to avoid them because most of the time they cannot swallow anyway, and the aspirin can end up in the lungs. 

• At the elected officials reception that Jasper Main Street and the Walker County Board of Realtors sponsored Tuesday at Los Reyes, state Rep. Connie Rowe, R-Jasper introduced Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth as a former House member she knew, kidding him to be a "smart aleck" and that they had come to be dear friends. Predicting that he will someday be governor, she noted he came to Walker County five times in last year's primary, while his opponent never came. He has now made two visits to Jasper in the past few weeks. 

Ainsworth responded, "If I was a smart aleck - it takes one to know one, right?" which got a big laugh. "At first, (he and Rowe) didn't like each other, which was funny, but then we got to know each other."

"It was a slow build," she called out.

Ainsworth added she was a "tremendous friend," with "a ton of talent and is such a leader in the House ... She is a true fighter, and stands up for what is right. She is really smart." 

He also noted that "no one exemplifies character" in Montgomery like Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed, R-Jasper, any more than him and his family, calling him a mentor and looks forward to serving with him in the Senate, where Ainsworth will preside starting March 5. 

"I probably shouldn't say this, but I am going to - in my opinion, he'll be the next pro temp. He's going to be a tremendous leader in the Senate," Ainsworth said.

Ainsworth also called state Rep. Tim Wadsworth, R-Arley, who also attended, "a bright legal mind and a good friend."  

He also said state Rep. Kyle South, R-Fayette, was a great colleague. South and other legislators visited that day with leadership at the Alabama Surface Mining Commission, and Reed invited him to hang around for the reception. I like Kyle and was glad he came; I think he is supportive of our area legislators and deserved to be here.

Ainsworth, who has three children in public school, said the state needed to have one of the top pre-K systems. In campaigning, he heard "people" was the number one need to grow business, so that will be worked on through workforce development, which he appeared to link with education. "We're going to dive into policies to help existing industry expand in this state. We want our state to be open for business," he said, adding he loved to promote the state. 

• While addressing the reception, Reed noted people needed to meet Kathy Love, the director of the Alabama Surface Mining Commission. He noted the agency is still housed in the Pinnacle Bank building downtown. (I overheard sometime the same day that efforts have continued to be made over the years to pull it out of Jasper, but that hasn't happened. I imagine with Reed as majority leader, it won't happen soon.) He noted Patrick Cagle, president of the Alabama Coal Association, had made it to the meeting. Secretary of State John Merrill snuck in as Reed was concluding. 

• Being a Jasper Main Street event, Reed and Rowe had to make note about how downtown Jasper got to be dark and deserted on nights and weekends until the revitalization came. Of course, the state leaders attending got to hear that, which was good. 

• To be honest with you, the format and focus of the event didn't quite jell beforehand, so I didn't know what to expect. It had a huge crowd in the community room of Los Reyes, and they laid out a buffet, although I don't know that the majority of them ate much. The plan was to actually have speaking spread out in intervals, but they decided that two sessions were enough and hurried through some of that so people could talk. It was a huge, informal, crowded talkfest, with people squeezing between each other to make it across, but I think the intimate atmosphere worked. I didn't see many average citizens, sadly, but I saw a lot of leaders getting a chance to buttonhole each other or get to know each other. I think it is worth repeating, although I would keep the speeches to only state officials and let everyone mingle. 

• I had a good story interview with Fayette native Chris Rhodes, the manager of the Jasper Walmart. He noted that Walmart's foundation still gives out community grants, and he wants to encourage groups in the county to apply for them. This can be done online, or they can get with him. 

By the way, the store is headlong in the renovations, but I am already enjoying one new feature I've discovered: A vending machine (near the ice cream area) that dispenses free samples. You use the Walmart phone app to activate it, getting a new item each week. I've gotten a candy bar, a breakfast bar, a Rice Krispie treat and a air freshener so far. 

Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle's news editor.