The mobile stroke unit is based at Cetronia Ambulance in the Allentown area and has been operated in partnership with Cetronia since its inception.
The new partnership with NOVA, operational as of Dec. 22, 2022, means the stroke unit will respond to stroke calls along with Northern Valley (NOVA) or rendezvous with NOVA crews on their way to a comprehensive stroke center, such as Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–Cedar Crest.
In Lehigh County, NOVA serves North Whitehall, Washington, Heidelberg and portions of Lowhill townships. It also serves Walnutport, Northampton County and provides emergency services on part of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
“We’re excited to be able to provide a higher level of care for stroke patients and begin crucial intervention and treatment before even arriving at the hospital emergency room,” said Kristie Wentling, NOVA executive director.
The mobile stroke unit does not operate everywhere within the LVHN footprint. However, in addition to Northern Valley, it currently has agreements with and assists on stroke calls with Cetronia, Macungie and Boyertown ambulance companies.
Ken Reichenbach, mobile stroke unit program director, said the mobile stroke unit is essentially a neurological emergency room on wheels.
The stroke unit is equipped with a camera that doctors at LVHN stroke centers can operate to evaluate what’s happening and direct initial treatment. Mobile stroke unit crews could be directed to start clot-busting medication or blood-thickening medication, depending on the type of stroke.
Doctors have direct communication with the stroke unit crew, which also can perform a computed tomography (CT) scan so doctors can get a view of what’s happening inside the patient’s brain. Communication with doctors also provides information on which type of stroke center – primary or comprehensive – is best for the patient under the circumstances.
Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds in the United States. In most cases, that means blood flow to the brain is blocked. It also can mean an artery in the brain has ruptured and is causing bleeding around the brain.
In either case, the lack of oxygen-rich blood means brain cells begin to die within minutes. Millions of cells can die each minute, causing potential trouble with movement, speech and thinking.
Strokes also can be deadly and are the fifth leading cause of death in this country. “The faster a stroke patient gets treatment, the better the outcome,” said Reichenbach. “That’s why time is brain.”