EvergreenHealth stroke treatment helps patients overcome setbacks, meet goals

The award-winning stroke program is ranked number one in Washington four years in a row

Jan 03, 2013, 13:58 ET from EvergreenHealth

KIRKLAND, Wash., Jan. 3, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Last fall, Mill Creek resident and avid marathoner Jeff Knakal experienced a sudden weakness on the right side of his body and had difficulty speaking. His wife recognized the symptoms as signs of a stroke, and called 911. When he arrived at the EvergreenHealth Medical Center emergency department, the hospital's award-winning team of stroke specialists got to work to diagnose the cause of the otherwise healthy man's symptoms.

Knakal was acutely attuned to his own body. As a veteran runner who logs hundreds of miles per year, he was in exceptional physical health and was in the midst of training for the New York Marathon, then just one week away, when he was sidelined by the attack.

"I went from training for a marathon to spending the night in the hospital and had no idea what put me there," said 52-year-old Knakal.

EvergreenHealth's emergency stroke treatment team, which relies on the collaboration of doctors across a range of specialties from emergency care to neurology, cardiology and hospitalist medicine, quickly intervened to treat his symptoms and identify the cause as a TIA, or transient ischemic attack – essentially a stroke that resolves, but is a serious warning that another stroke may happen again.

Though his stroke symptoms quickly resolved on their own, diagnostic tests performed by his multi-disciplinary team revealed a heart condition that contributed to the TIA and put Knakal at greater risk for a stroke in the future. He is among the 20 percent of Americans who have a condition called patent foramen ovale – a hole between the sides of his heart. It's also likely that genetics played a factor – his doctors identified an increase in his cholesterol, despite his active lifestyle.

Within mere hours, EvergreenHealth's specialists helped Knakal understand why he had the attack, and the lifestyle and medication changes he needed to make to prevent future strokes. 

"My doctors understood me, not just my symptoms. In such a scary moment, that made all the difference," said Knakal.

Recognizing his resolve to keep running, the EvergreenHealth team developed a comprehensive aftercare plan incorporating regular care from a cardiologist, neurologist and a team of pharmacists at the EvergreenHealth Anticoagulation Clinic to keep Knakal healthy for the long-term and allow him to continue training for future marathons.

Today, Knakal is celebrating his personal record-setting Seattle Marathon performance, which he managed to achieve just one month after suffering his attack. He continues to undergo additional testing and treatment by his multi-disciplinary team to prevent future incidences. 

"We focus on caring for each patient as a person who is going through a life changing event," said David Likosky, MD, medical director of the stroke program at EvergreenHealth. "Our collaborative approach requires quick action as a team to treat patients in need of the most time-critical diagnoses. Our success depends on tight communication, the highest level of performance from providers in a range of specialties and planning across all the major systems of the hospital."

EvergreenHealth's cross-specialty team's rapid response protocol often makes a critical difference, just as Robert Clements, another EvergreenHealth stroke patient, learned. 

Late last year, Clements suffered a massive stroke in his Kirkland home, resulting in numbness on one side of his body and the complete inability to speak. Emergency responders transported him to EvergreenHealth Medical Center's emergency room, where doctors rapidly performed diagnostic scans that revealed a serious blood clot that had formed in an artery in his brain.

But thanks to the hospital's collaborative approach, within 48 minutes of his arrival at the emergency department, Clements was treated with a brain-saving dose of tPA, a clot-busting drug that dissolved the clot that was building on his brain. Two days later, he left the hospital back to normal and with no need for therapy.

"I don't have the words to describe how thankful I am for the whole team's fast action," said Clements.

Like Knakal, Clements received the same multi-specialty care during his stay in the intensive care unit, where nurses performed frequent neurological checks and monitored him closely to prevent complications of stroke, while a range of specialists, from neurologists to speech therapists treated him throughout his recovery.

Today, Clements is nearly 100 percent recovered, branding him "a miracle guy" by his doctors. According to Clements, his care made a significant impact not only on his physical wellbeing, but on his emotional recovery, as well.

"They really touched my heart," said Clements. "The whole team was excellent."

EvergreenHealth's stroke care program has been recognized as the number one stroke program in Washington for four consecutive years by HealthGrades, the nation's leading provider of information to help consumers make informed decisions about a physician or hospital.  The program is also ranked among the top 5 percent of hospitals nationwide, and in 2012 earned the fourth-consecutive HealthGrades Stroke Care Excellence Award.

Specialists and clinical departments including emergency care, diagnostic imaging, interventional radiology, hospitalist medicine, lab, pharmacy, neurology, nursing and rehabilitation comprise some of the groups whose work earned the organization a top spot among the nation's best-performing hospitals. 

"Our teams work seamlessly to ensure all patients receive the highest level of breakthrough care from experts across the organization," said Bob Malte, CEO of EvergreenHealth. "We're proud of the stroke team's achievement, because it means we are providing our community with medical care that saves lives."

To learn more about EvergreenHealth's stroke treatment and other specialties, visit www.evergreenhealth.com or call the 24-hour Nurse Navigators and Healthline at 425.899.3000.

About EvergreenHealth
EvergreenHealth, a public hospital district and community-based health care organization established in 1972, offers a breadth of services and programs that is among the most comprehensive in the region. More than 950 physicians provide clinical excellence within more than 80 specialties, including cardiac, oncology, surgical care, orthopedics, a neuroscience institute, women's and children's services, hospice care, pulmonary care, a sleep disorders center and home care services. EvergreenHealth serves more than 400,000 residents in its primary service area of northern King and southern Snohomish counties with EvergreenHealth Primary Care, a network of primary and urgent care practices, and its main hospital campus in Kirkland, Wash. EvergreenHealth also provides emergency care at two sites: its main hospital campus and the EvergreenHealth Redmond Medical Center. In addition to clinical care, EvergreenHealth offers extensive community health outreach and education programs, anchored by the EvergreenHealth Nurse Navigator and Healthline, a 24/7 nurse consultation service. For more information, visit www.evergreenhealth.com.


Kay Taylor
Vice President, Marketing, Communications & PR

Kristi Clough
Firmani + Associates Inc.

SOURCE EvergreenHealth