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Theresa's Story

Trumbull patient endorses hospitals stroke care...

Bridgeport Hospital has been certified as a Primary Stroke Center by the Joint Commission, the nation’s leading healthcare accrediting body.

The certification means that Bridgeport Hospital meets strict national standards for providing safe, high-quality care to stroke patients. The certification is good for one year, with an additional one-year extension if criteria continue to be met. At the end of the certification period, providers must apply for re-certification.

Seventy-year-old Theresa DiGennaro of Trumbull also endorses the quality of Bridgeport Hospital’s stroke care. She suffered a stroke on Sept. 21, received immediate care at the hospital and was back home a week later, with no physical or cognitive disabilities.

"The care was excellent everywhere in the hospital, and the entire staff was very attentive," Theresa notes.

On the day Theresa had her stroke, she and her husband, Donald, were preparing to eat dinner. Donald noticed that Theresa was slurring her words. She also began to lose strength in her left hand and left leg.

The couple was quickly joined by their daughter-in-law, Maureen, who was called at her nearby home. Maureen joined Donald in convincing Theresa that she needed to go the hospital right away, even though Theresa insisted that she was fine.

The Trumbull EMS ambulance crew reported Theresa’s symptoms to the Bridgeport Hospital Emergency Department (ED) as they were en route. Emergency medicine physician Jonathan Maisel, MD, co-medical director of the Bridgeport Hospital Stroke Center, was on duty at the time. He immediately called a "Stroke Alert," which triggers a process for rapidly evaluating and treating stroke patients.

About two hours after experiencing her first symptoms, Theresa arrived at the hospital. Dr. Maisel consulted with neurologist Lisa Webb, MD, and Theresa was taken for a CT scan. The specialized X-ray ruled out a cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain), paving the way for Dr. Maisel to give Theresa tPA, a medication that dissolves stroke-causing blood clots. Had there been a hemorrhage, she would not have been a candidate for tPA therapy.

"My husband noticed an immediate change for the better after I received the medication," Theresa remembers. "I could grasp better with my hand and I was speaking more clearly again. If anyone can speak for that medicine, it’s me!"

"Theresa’s family did exactly the right thing in calling 911 immediately," says Dr. Maisel. "Treatment with tPA is only effective if given within three hours of the onset of a stroke. The sooner it’s given, the less damage is done by the interruption of blood flow to the brain."

During the past year, there have been more than 30 Stroke Alerts called at Bridgeport Hospital, and one-fourth of the patients involved have received tPA to minimize stroke injuries. The process is in place for patients arriving by ambulance as well as those already hospitalized. The hospital has also expanded community education programs on stroke prevention and care.

"Awareness is the key to minimizing the harmful effects of a stroke," says neurologist Philip Barasch, MD, the Stroke Center’s other co-medical director. "Recognizing the symptoms and seeking immediate medical help are essential to preventing serious disability and saving lives."

Theresa fully agrees with Dr. Barasch. "People should not ignore the symptoms," she says. "Call for help right away!"