HEALTH Operation Stroke aims to increase awareness

According to a local physician, 38 percent of Americans don't know that strokes damage the brain and more than 50 percent don't know the warning signs.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Strokes strike in an instant, often rendering victims speechless, motionless, unaware of what hit them.
Every year, 1,300 stroke victims die in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties. For many, the warning signs that they might be at risk were there, but went unrecognized.
"We need to get the word out on stroke just like we got the word out on heart disease," said Dr. Donald J. Tamulonis Jr., a neurologist at St. Elizabeth Health Center and director of its stroke center. Tamulonis also serves as co-chairman of the Youngstown Metro Operation Stroke coalition, a group of health-care professionals determined to reduce the number of stroke victims in the tri-county area and improve their care and long-term prognoses.
Dr. Dariush Saghafi, a neurologist at Salem Community Hospital, also serves as co-chairman of the organization.
Goals: The physicians explained the goals of Operation Stroke during a press conference and luncheon Thursday afternoon at the Holiday Inn MetroPlex, Liberty.
First, the public must be educated about what strokes are, how they affect their victims, and the warning signs, Dr. Tamulonis said.
Thirty-eight percent of Americans don't know that strokes damage the brain, and more than 50 percent don't know the warning signs, he said. They also don't know that stroke victims who receive treatment within three hours greatly improve their chances of survival and recovery, he said; those who receive treatment within 60 minutes of the onset have an even better chance.
Currently, Dr. Tamulonis noted, "less than 5 percent of victims seek treatment within the first three hours."
Operation Stroke's goal for 2002 is to increase the number of stroke victims who seek treatment within three hours, and by 2010 to reduce the incidence of stroke by 25 percent, Dr. Tamulonis reported.
Project teams: To meet these goals, Dr. Saghafi said, five project teams will address specific issues: consistency in medical care, emergency medical services, community education, media/public relations, and rehabilitation/recovery.
The team addressing medical care will work to establish specific procedures for treating stroke victims so that patients will receive the same quality care no matter which hospital they use -- St. Elizabeth Health Center, St. Joseph Medical Center, Salem Community Hospital, Trumbull Memorial or Northside Medical Center -- Dr. Saghafi said.
The emergency medical services team will work to ensure patients receive treatment within the first three hours after a stroke, he continued. The community education team will work to inform community members about risks of having a stroke, warning signs and treatment. The rehabilitation team will address long-term care, Dr. Saghafi said, and the media/public relations team will inform the public about events, activities and progress of the coalition.
Operation Stroke is spearheaded by the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association.

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