Hawaii doctors use ambulance-based telehealth to speed up response in stroke cases

May marks stroke awareness month. The CDC says 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke annually and...
May marks stroke awareness month. The CDC says 795,000 Americans suffer a stroke annually and the effects can be debilitating,(Hawaii News Now)
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 3:44 PM HST|Updated: May. 25, 2023 at 4:02 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - John Stiles still vividly recalls the moments leading up to a scary medical episode in early July 2021 while eating lunch with his grandchildren.

“I went out to grab the dish and it went right through my hand,” Stiles said. “I tried to pick up stuff that fell off of it, I couldn’t do it. I wandered into the kitchen and by that time, my daughter knew something was wrong.”

Fortunately, his daughter immediately called 911.

“He had complete paralysis,” said Dr. Matthew Koenig, a neurologist with Queen’s Medical Center. “He was not moving the whole right side of his body and he was unable to speak or communicate, which we call aphasia.”

A diagnosis Koenig reached because of a swift and efficient course of action: When paramedics respond to a patient suffering a stroke, their doctor is contacted via video call.

“The stroke treatment truly starts at the 911 call,” Koenig said.

“We’re able to see patients using telehealth and video in the ambulance before they arrive to the hospital. That helps to make sure that patients are taken to the right location, so they can be treated fastest.”

As soon as Stiles arrived from his Windward Oahu home, Koenig and his team prescribed clot-buster medications.

And within hours, his symptoms were relieved.

He walked out of the hospital within a matter of days with no major lingering effects and after two years, Stiles reunited with and thanked the doctor who helped save his life.

“Look for the facial droop, look for the arm weakness or not being able to hold your arms out steady, speech impairment, it all comes on fast and then get 911 as fast as you can,” said Stiles, who now volunteers with the Hawaii Stroke Coalition. “That’s our take-home lesson.”

Stiles, who turns 75 this year, is sharing his story as part of Stroke Awareness Month and he wants the community to know his incident is living proof that a second cannot be wasted.

“With stroke we say time is brain,” Koenig said.

“So literally every minute that goes by when there’s a blockage of blood flow to the brain, you’re losing 1.9 million brain cells permanently. So that contributes to more and more disability over time.”