Emergency expertise beats stroke

April 23, 2013 started out as an unremarkable day for 44-year-old Barbara Figge. The energetic tennis player, avid hiker, and devoted mother of three woke up early to start the day.

She poured herself a cup of coffee and made her way across the kitchen of her Warm Springs home to check her email. Spilling her coffee along the way, she grabbed a paper towel to clean it up. Then, she fell.

“I tried to get up but couldn’t,” Barbara says. “Little did I know that everything on my right side was paralyzed. I had no expression on the right side of my face and my speech was unusual. I knew I was having a stroke.”

Barbara attempted to call her husband, who was at the gym. However, with the symptoms of the stroke, dialing the phone proved too difficult. So Barbara calmly shouted to her daughter, Taylor, for help.

Within minutes, emergency responders arrived at the Figge home and quickly transported Barbara to St. Luke’s Wood River. Meanwhile, Dr. Keith Sivertson, St. Luke’s Wood River chief of staff and a board certified emergency physician, was monitoring the emergency radio. When he heard the 911 call, Dr. Sivertson immediately set the wheels in motion to care for Barbara. Advance preparation is critically important in cases of stroke, as the time to treatment has a dramatic effect on outcome.

Barbara was immediately rushed to the Computed Tomography (CT) scanner at St. Luke’s. Dr. Quinn Demordaunt determined she had suffered an ischemic stroke.

Dr. Sivertson administered the FDA-approved clot- busting drug tPA (tissue plasminogen activator). The drug is currently the most promising treatment for ischemic stroke. However, to best benefit a patient, it must be administered within a three-hour window from the on-set of symptoms. If given within this window, tPA can significantly reduce the effects of stroke and reduce permanent disability.

Administering tPA is complex and time sensitive. Our specialty trained emergency physicians adhere to strict stroke protocols, which are overseen by Dr. Jim Torres, stroke director for St. Luke’s Health System and a Wood River emergency physician.

For Barbara, the drug was effective and quickly began to relieve her symptoms. She was flown by Air St. Luke’s helicopter for specialty neurologic care at St. Luke’s Boise Medical Center.

“Barbara is alive and thriving today because of the good work of our emergency responders and well coordinated emergency care,” says Dr. Sivertson.

“This level of emergency expertise is virtually unheard of in any other small community and would not be possible without generous philanthropic support.”

Barbara spent one night in intensive care and returned home. Within days she was hiking, playing tennis, and enjoying time with her family.