GR hospital sees increase in stroke patients

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Strokes are one of the top five causes of death in the country, but a West Michigan hospital is working double time to try to fight the problem.

Doctors at Spectrum Health’s comprehensive stroke center, the only one in the Grand Rapids area, told 24 Hour News that strokes are the most preventable cause of disability. That’s why the center has worked to reduce the time it takes from when a stroke patient arrives at the emergency room to the time they start their procedure.

Officials at the comprehensive stroke center explained they have trimmed that average time down from 180 minutes to 74 minutes.

It’s a change stroke survivors like David McIntee deeply appreciate.

Photo: An undated courtesy photo of David McIntee.

McIntee is an avid bicycle rider. It was somewhat ironic that preparing for a race on his two wheels turned into a life-threatening race against time.

“I was packing to go to a bike race,” the Grand Rapids man said.

He said that while he was packing, he thought he felt vertigo symptoms setting in. Focused on his upcoming race, he shrugged it off initially. Then, he said he began shaking and having trouble moving.

McIntee’s wife quickly came home and called an ambulance.

“I really had no idea what it was at that point,” he explained. “When they took a look, one of the EMTs said, ‘This is a stroke.’”

Dr. Justin Singer, the director of vascular and neuroendovascular surgery at Spectrum Health, said he remembers Mcintee’s symptoms fluctuating.

Since he came to Spectrum Butterworth — where the state-of-the-art comprehensive stroke center is located — they quickly got him through tests, scans and eventually an emergent endovascular stroke intervention.

The procedure has a big name, but the tools are tiny. A wire catheter is inserted in the leg, or sometimes the arm, all the way to the brain.

“We’ve performed over 100 of these procedures so far this year, which is overwhelmingly the highest volume center in the state of Michigan for this kind of procedure,” Singer told 24 Hour News 8.

The alternative to the procedure would be clot-busting medicine, but Singer said that the majority of patients do not qualify for the medicine. This is the only option for several people.

“After I thought about it, I realized that I was pretty lucky,” said McIntee. “A lot of it was the timing. It was the speed at which everything happened. I know other people who have not been so lucky.”

Singer said that “time is brain.” Every minute a stroke goes untreated could have devastating impacts on how well a patient is able to recover that is why strokes often cause disability.