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Phoenix woman says Barrow Mobile Stroke Unit saved her life

March 30, 2018

LaVon Medina

Phoenix resident LaVon Medina credits the Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit with saving her life on Thanksgiving.

Medina was preparing dinner in her kitchen when she suffered a stroke.

As she later recalled, she kept repeating, “Something’s happening to me. Something’s happening to me.” Her reaction was quickly followed by a scream from her daughter, who was nearby.

“I guess my face had fallen. So she ran to the phone and called the ambulance,” LaVon explains.

Within minutes Phoenix Fire Department paramedics were at the scene. As Director of the Barrow Stroke Program Dr. Michael Waters explains, “This is the most critical time for patients, from the moment they being to suffer from stroke symptoms to the transit and initial treatment in the ER.” For many stroke patients just minutes can determine whether they’re able to make a full recovery, or they suffer lasting effects.

However, this stroke case was different. In addition to paramedics, the Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit also arrived on the scene.

Funded by philanthropic support from Thunderbirds Charities and The Board of Visitors, the Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit is a uniquely equipped and staffed ambulance – an emergency room on wheels that is stocked with specialized equipment designed to diagnose and treat stroke victims. Through a partnership with the Phoenix Fire Department, when an emergency call for a possible stroke is received, the Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit is dispatched to the patient’s home along with the Fire Department’s paramedics.

The unit is equipped with a CT scanner, medications, and Barrow staff knowledgeable in caring for stroke patients. Using telemedicine connectivity, data transfer and face-to-face video conferencing, a Barrow stroke physician is able to consult with the patient and on-site staff, helping to determine what immediate action can be taken to reduce the effects of the stroke.

Within 20 minutes of her daughter’s 911 call, LaVon was diagnosed with an ischemic stroke and treated with the clot-busting drug tPA.

As a result of the immediate on-site treatment from the mobile unit, LaVon was released from the hospital the next morning with very minimal impairment. The experience hits close to home for LaVon. Her husband of 58 years, Joe, died in 2014 from complications of a stroke suffered years earlier. When Joe suffered his stroke he didn’t receive treatment for hours, and as a result was never able to full-recover from the effects. LaVon believes that if the Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit was in operation at that time, it could have saved his life.

In operation since October 2017, the Barrow mobile stroke unit is one of just 10 in the country and currently the only one in operation in Arizona.

As for LaVon, she could not be more grateful for the mobile unit.

“I just think what a miracle it is and how many lives it’s going to save. It’s amazing. Saved my life. I’m one of them,” she says.