Mobile stroke treatment unit goes to 911 calls with mantra 'time is brain'

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — For stroke victims, every minute counts.

IU Health's Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit first hit the streets in April. Basically, if there is a 911 call that could be stroke-related, the mobile unit also responds.

Paula Harmon is one of the first to use the mobile unit. She had been experiencing regular migraines, and her health progressively got worse until Aug. 1. She went to shower and could not use her left hand. Harmon called her daughter, who then called 911. Emergency medical technicians arrived along with the unit.

The unit is basically a "neuro ICU" on wheels. It includes a neurologist, a nurse, a scan technician, a paramedic and an EMT. Harmon had a clot on her brain. From the mobile unit at Harmon's home, a neurologist gave Harmon a clot-busting drug and began treatment. Harmon was then taken to IU Heatlh Methodist Hospital for surgery to remove the clot.

"The left-side paralysis was gone immediately after the surgery. I had a little bit of left-sided weakness but no numbness. I could talk. I could stand up. I could walk, everything," Harmon said. 

Dr. Jason Mackey is the director of the IU Health Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit. "Every minute that goes by is associated with 2 million neurons lost. The mantra in stroke is 'time is brain, time is brain.' We're trying to treat people as quickly as possible."

Mackey treated Harmon. On Wednesday, they reunited for the first time since Harmon's surgery. Harmon had been released from the hospital two days after she went into the mobile unit. She continues to have some slight issues with speech but is recovering well and expected to go back to work soon.

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