AR SAVES gives Osceola stroke victim second chance at life

OSCEOLA, AR (KAIT) – Strokes are the third leading cause of death in Arkansas, according to Arkansas Department of Health statistics.

For the first time at a Mississippi County hospital, doctors saved the life of a stroke victim using virtual technology.

Osceola resident Leslie Bennett is the first stroke victim at South Mississippi County Regional Medical Center to be saved through the program AR SAVES, which stands for Stroke Assistance through Virtual Emergency Support.

AR SAVES, which started in 2009, connects emergency room doctors to stroke neurologists affiliated with  the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Center for Distance Health.

The neurologists can monitor immediate drug treatment at the 42 participating hospitals, instead of a patient who needs treatment having to wait until after they are transported to a larger hospital.

"The neurologist would beam into the hospital and either be in their office like I am that you see behind me or actually they take calls from their home as well," said UAMS AR SAVES Director Michael Manley. "A lot of the technology is becoming cheaper and more connected so you know you hear, 'Is there an app for that? Guess what? There's an app for that. I could call you and connect in anywhere in the state, any hospital in the state.'"

Bennett had a stroke April 3 around 6:30 p.m., he says.  Tasks as simple as raising his foot or describing a picture were difficult for the 42-year-old to do following the stroke.

He went to SMC about an hour later."If I hadn't have come up here when I did, I'd probably be in a nursing home or dead."

Emergency room doctors performed tests, administered the clot-busting drug Activase, connected with a neurologist and transported Bennett to UAMS that same night Bennett went to SMC.

"They assessed me, and started treatment immediately and within 30 minutes I was in the air on the way to (UAMS in) Little Rock," he said.

The  father of six and grandfather of three was back at home Friday, April 5, and back at work Monday, April 8.

"Sixty minutes can make a difference in where you spend the rest of your life. You could go home from here. You could go to the nursing home or to the funeral home," said SMC Emergency Department Nurse Manager Felicia Pierce.  "A full-blown stroke, untreated, it'll age you 36 years."

Bennett says his sister took him to the hospital after his two youngest daughters convinced him he needed medical attention. Pierce advises remembering the acronym F.A.S.T. when looking for symptoms of a stroke.

Face – Check for an uneven smile

Arm – Check if one arm is weak

Speech – Listen for slurred speech

Time – Call 911 right away

Pierce says addition to living in the Bible Belt, "(we also live in) the Stroke Belt, the Heart Attack Belt. We're right there, the Delta being the worst part of it, so you've got to know the risk factors - high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity."

"I'm truly blessed to be here and God's given me a second chance at life and if this gets out to anybody and helps anybody, I've done what I'm supposed to do on this Earth," said Bennett.

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