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NEWS Improving and Protecting the Health, Well-Being
and Self-Reliance of All Montanans.

May 13, 2013


Jon Ebelt, Public Information Officer, DPHHS, (406) 444-0936
Chuck Council, Communications Specialist, DPHHS, (406) 444-4391

Time is critical in stroke treatment

In 1998, when Jim Paris had a stroke while in Great Falls, he received what was a new drug at the time—tissue plasminogen activator, tPA for short.

The Lincoln resident recalls the day vividly. He woke up feeling strange and disassociated. There was numbness on his right side and he felt like he wasn’t connected to his body. While Paris knew he was seriously ill, he did not know it was a stroke. His wife, Maida, suspected it, however, and rushed him to the hospital.

Within two hours of the first symptoms, Paris was in the emergency room. After running tests, the doctor confirmed it was a stroke. He asked Paris if he was willing to take a drug recently approved by the FDA.

"I told the doctor to give me the new medicine," Paris said. "I was willing to try anything. Within 20 minutes, it was evident the medicine was working."

Today, the drug tPA is recognized as the best treatment for acute ischemic stroke. Ischemic strokes, the most common type of stroke, are caused by a blood clot. The clot-busting drug can minimize brain damage caused by interruption in blood flow. In order for tPA to be administered, however, diagnosis and treatment must occur within three hours from the start of symptoms.

"The same day I had my stroke, another patient came into the ER with signs of stroke. Her stroke resulted in some paralysis. That could have been me—tPA saved my life," Paris said. Overall, Paris has had no lasting physical effects from his stroke. To help prevent another stroke, he is on an aspirin regimen and watches his cholesterol and blood pressure.

Paris feels lucky he was in Great Falls when his stroke happened. He understands the difficulty of rural residents being close to health facilities. This is why he believes it is so important to head to a hospital at the first sign of a stroke so medication like tPA can be utilized. Even better, patients should call 9-1-1 to get emergency transport and to have a stroke team waiting upon arrival at the hospital.

As Paris' wife said, "Don’t question the warning signs. If you wait, you could be too late."

The stroke warning signs are:

  • Sudden weakness of the face, arm or leg usually affecting one side of the body
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
  • Vision problems or severe headache with no known cause

To learn more about stroke, visit http://www.strokeassociation.org or call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653).


Page last updated: May 13, 2013