As we were walking out of one of the local SNiFs our dispatch hailed on the radio. "Engine 51, status?" We informed them that we were available. "Engine 51, respond to room 179 for a 65 year old female, possible stroke." At least we didn't have far to go.
As we walked into the room we were met by the RN. She said that her patient had, in the last 10 minutes, started slurring her speech and began having facial droop. CVA's (cerebrovascular accident), more commonly know as strokes, are very time sensitive. Just like a heart attack, the longer the brain goes without oxygen, the greater the damage that is done. There is a small window of opportunity for stroke victims where they can receive clot busting medications, only 4 hours from when symptoms start.
My patient did have progressively worsening facial droop and slurred speech. What she had going for her was a nurse that noticed this and immediately called us. We would have been able to get her to the ER well withing the prerequisite time frame except for one thing. My patient didn't fit on the gurney. She weighed over 600 pounds.
While being obese does place people at extra risk for all types of medical conditions I don't think people realize that it can also delay your much needed treatment. We had AMR respond with their bariatric gurney. Meanwhile we waited. And waited. We talked with our patient. We learned all about her and what lead her to be there under those circumstances.
About 15 minutes after our arrival my patient appeared to stabilize. She still had the drooping face and slurred speech but she wasn't getting an worse. Other than those two minor things she said she felt great. No headache, no weakness.
After an hour of waiting another crew showed up with the super sized gurney. Seven of us moved the patient over to it and got her on her way to the hospital.
I hope that, when further tests are done, they find that it was only something like bell's palsy. If it was a stroke, I think we still got her to the hospital within the time frame for drug therapy.