When you're working at a business newspaper, it's easy to get
caught up in what many consider the dark and dirty aspects of
today's high-tech health care sector -- which provides paths of
recovery from so many previously deadly diseases, but at a price few
can afford without suffering financial hardship. That issue has been
the underlying driver of this sector for a decade allegedly tamed
under the rise of managed care and the coincidental economic boom of
the Clinton era, but ready to rear its ugly head again if the
economy should indeed tank, as some fear.
Every once in a while, though, a development arises that
transcends the whips of supply and demand. One such program gets its
launch Thursday in Oklahoma City and 44 other cities, when the
American Stroke Association kicks off "Operation Stroke."
Stroke is the third-leading cause of death, and a leading cause
of severe, long-term disability, accounting for one of every 14.5
deaths. Indeed, someone suffers a new or recurrent stroke very 53
seconds, and someone dies from it every 3.3 minutes. More than 60
percent of those are women. And yet, if these victims can get access
to the clot-busting drug t-PA within three hours of the onset of
stroke symptoms, their chances for recovery are significantly
The goal behind "Operation Stroke," therefore, is simply to
educate the public -- and remind our emergency medial systems
personnel -- on the risks and signs of stroke, all to beat that
three-hour limitation to this wonder drug approved five years ago by
the Food and Drug Administration. The ASA, an arm of the American
Heart Association, hopes to spread "Operation Stroke" to 125 cities
in two years.
"Improving early recognition of stroke, reducing the time to
treatment and controlling the risk factors for stroke are our best
defenses in the war against stroke," said Dr. Janet Spradlin, a
clinical specialist at St. Anthony Hospital and the 2001 Stroke
Advocate of the Year, a title bestowed by the ASA's International
Stroke Conference. "Immediate medical attention can make all the
difference between life and death and in the quality of life for a
stroke survivor. By knowing the warning signs and calling 9-1-1, we
can all help reduce the devastating effects of stroke."
In a column such as this, such low-key community education
efforts usually get regulated to the end of the discussion, once the
latest business developments and the industry movers and shakers are
covered. But every once in a while it's good and proper to turn the
spotlight on wellness, which is just as important to containing
health care costs as how much is spent in delivering the latest life-
preserving devices and procedures. It's also easy to forget just how
big a business this can be: As an example, the ASA spent $54 million
in fiscal `99 on stroke-related research and programs.
Lest I forget, here are the symptoms of stroke:
* Sudden weakness or numbness of the face, arm and leg,
especially on one side of the body.
* Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
* Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
* Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or
* Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
The chance of suffering a stroke may be reduced by practicing a
healthy lifestyle, including controlling your high blood pressure,
preventing high cholesterol, exercising, avoiding obesity and
stopping your nasty smoking habit. And if you have atria
fibrillation or carotid artery disease, see a physician.
Dr. Jordan Tang -- a researcher at the Oklahoma Medical Research
Foundation who has studied stomach enzymes, AIDS-inhibiting drugs
and Alzheimer's disease -- has been chosen for induction in the
Oklahoma State University Alumni Association Hall of Fame.
Nurse Avilla Williams has been promoted to vice president of
branch operations for Deaconess Hospital and of the Deaconess branch
in Bethany, where she oversees operations including mental health
services and home health. …