Iredell County has some of the highest death rates from stroke in the nation,
and as the fourth leading cause of death in North Carolina, poses a serious
health threat to the local population.
The vast majority of stroke deaths are preventable, though, and a quick
response can minimize damage, prevent disability and save lives.
When stroke happens, having a certified stroke center nearby is crucial.
Iredell Memorial Hospital (IMH) in Statesville – part of Iredell
Health System – is an award-winning Primary Stroke Care Center and
the only hospital in Iredell County to consecutively earn the status of
being a Get with the Guidelines – Stroke Gold Plus center, a designation
given to facilities that meet aggressive standards for treatment, as set
by the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association.
“North Carolina is in the stroke belt of the country and Iredell
County is actually in what is called the ‘stroke belt buckle,’”
said Celeste Stevens, a cardiovascular clinician for Iredell Health System
and the certification coordinator for the hospital’s stroke center.
Being in the “stroke belt buckle” means Iredell County residents
are at an even greater risk than people in other areas of the country
Through a focus on education, prevention, and treatment, IMH is having
a significant impact on stroke deaths in local communities. In fact, according
to a recent Iredell County health assessment, stroke deaths have decreased
by 7.4% since IMH became a certified stroke center in 2008.
In order to achieve the Primary Stroke Center certification, IMH must
pass a rigorous evaluation led by The Joint Commission, an agency that
accredits and certifies nearly 21,000 healthcare organizations and programs
in the United States. Stevens is currently preparing the Iredell stroke
team for its fifth certification.
“They look at things very carefully to make sure we’re following
our clinical practice guidelines and that we are giving the best stroke
care possible,” she said. That means providing a speedy diagnosis
and treatment to prevent serious brain damage or death. At IMH, the response
begins as soon as someone calls 911.
IMH also has an active community outreach program, with a special focus
on the African-American community – a demographic with a stroke
rate almost twice as high as the rate for Caucasians.
“If we can get the word out to the community on what signs and symptoms
are - what their risk factors are for stroke - then we can help them decrease
those risk factors and prevent strokes from happening,” said Stevens.
What are those symptoms? Numbness or weakness of the face, trouble seeing
or speaking and a severe headache are all warning signs that someone may
be having a stroke when the symptoms begin suddenly and the effects are
often devastating. Anyone who suspects a stroke should call 911 immediately.
For more information, please contact LaToya Boyce at 704.878.7738.
Bethany Hartness-Smith, RN, MSN and Celeste Stevens, RN, BSN, accept an
award on behalf of Iredell Memorial Hospital for earning the Get with
the Guidelines – Stroke Gold Plus certification from the American
Heart Association and American Stroke Association.