A year into operation, Indiana’s Mobile Stroke Unit is saving lives

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – May is National Stroke Awareness Month. IU Health lists stroke as the fourth leading cause of death in Marion County.

The IU Health Neuroscience Center is looking to boost those survival rates by treating patients before they get to the hospital. 

Dr. Jason Mackey, a neurologist at IU Health, says during a stroke the brain loses 2 million brain cells a minute. 

He says the faster doctors can get to the brain, the better the chances a patient has of survival and recovery. 

That’s where the Mobile Stroke Unit comes into play. It’s designed to get treatment to stroke patients faster. 

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It has a portable CT Scanner, is able to diagnosis through tele-medicine and can administer clot-busting drugs. 

“So, in general, we’re finding that these units reduce the time to treatment by 30-45 minutes – that’s a lot of time of time for brain cells not to have blood so yeah we think that by treating people faster were increasing the likelihood people will do well,” said Dr. Mackey. 

Indianapolis resident Wayne Smith says the Mobile Stroke Unit saved his life. 

In March, he suffered a stroke. Wayne’s sister noticed his speech starting to slur. And Wayne says he became so weak he couldn’t pick up a pen. 

His sister called 911 and within 10 minutes, the unit was at his home. 

“To get that truck, one truck out of Indiana. If we can just get more trucks on the road. I’m worth saving. One life is worth it. Imagine if we had three or four trucks on the roads,” said Smith. 

This Mobile Stroke Unit is the only unit in Indiana. It’s part of a research study out of Houston looking at the efficacy of mobile stroke units nationwide.

IU Health says each unit operates every other week. Those weeks are compared to weeks where stroke calls are met with regular ambulances. 

IU Health told News 8 it doesn’t have specific data on Mobile Stroke Unit survival rates, but they said the unit has been dispatched about 200 times in its first year.