Hospitalist gets first-hand experience in stroke care
May 1, 2023
It happened not too long after his 44th birthday. Dr. Michael Pafford, an internal medicine doctor working as a hospitalist at Saline Memorial Hospital, wasn’t scheduled to work that morning. As he was getting up to go make coffee, Pafford started feeling nauseous and experienced vertigo. Then, when he spoke, he noticed his voice sounded different. At that point, he knew he had to go to the hospital — not as a doctor, but as the patient.
When Pafford arrived at Saline Memorial, he was taken back to get a CT scan. The emergency department activated the AR Saves program, which is now known as Institute for Digital Health & Innovation (IDHI) Stroke Program. The IDHI Stroke Program is a network that connects neurologists with emergency departments across Arkansas to help diagnose and treat stroke patients via telemedicine.
“In a rural state like ours, not every hospital and community has a neurology doctor,” Pafford said. “People in Saline County and other rural areas wouldn’t have access to that specialty care except through this portal. Timing is the most important factor in treating stroke patients, and this program saves critical time in getting them the care they need — the care I needed that day.”
In less than 45 minutes from the time he started experiencing symptoms, Pafford received medicine to break up the blood clot causing the stroke. He was transferred to UAMS for aftercare. Now, more than six years later, Pafford still serves as a hospitalist at Saline Memorial and other area hospitals, with minimal deficits from the stroke he experienced.
He is one of hundreds of patients that Saline Memorial has cared for using the IDHI Stroke Program, according to Shannon Cleghorn, clinical coordinator in the emergency department.
Cleghorn is responsible for coordinating the IDHI Stroke Program at Saline. As part of this, she trains the hospital staff on the correct procedures, including how to facilitate the neurological consultations that are done via video conferencing.
In 2022, hospital staff received more than nine awards for providing expedient, quality care to patients demonstrating stroke symptoms. More recently, Cleghorn received a silver club stroke champion award and a bronze club stroke champion award. Taylor Maxwell, a registered nurse, received the bronze club stroke champion award.
“These awards demonstrate the excellence in door to clot buster medication times,” Cleghorn said.
Another key component of participating in the IDHI Stroke Program is educating the community about how to recognize the symptoms of stroke. The moniker BE FAST means being alert for a change in Balance or Eyesight, Facial drooping, Arm weakness and Speech difficulty that means it is Time to call 911. In 2022, the hospital shared this message through community events, social media posts and other outreach efforts.
This May, the hospital is sharing an educational video about BE FAST in conjunction with American Stroke Month.
“Someone has a stroke in the U.S. every 40 seconds,” Cleghorn said. “It’s important to know the signs and symptoms, so you can act fast and call 9-1-1 for emergency care when you or someone you know exhibits the signs of a stroke. Every minute counts.”
Saline Memorial Hospital CEO Michael Stewart said the hospital’s outreach efforts for stroke awareness are part of the hospital’s overall mission of making communities healthier.
“Moving forward with our mission doesn’t end on our campus,” Stewart said. “It includes equipping this community with the knowledge, tools and resources they need to be able to lead happier, healthier lives.”