The new partnership with Topton Ambulance, operational as of May 1, 2023, means the stroke unit will respond to stroke calls along with Topton – or rendezvous with Topton crews on their way to a Comprehensive Stroke Center, such as Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest.
In Berks County, Topton Ambulance serves about 4,200 residents in all or portions of Topton and Lyons boroughs and Longswamp, Rockland, Maxatawny and District townships.
“Having quicker access to world-class stroke care is a great tool for us to have to support the communities we serve,” said Topton Ambulance Chief and Executive Director Michael Richards. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the stroke unit.”
The mobile stroke unit does not operate everywhere within the LVHN footprint. However, in addition to Topton, it has agreements with and assists on stroke calls with Northern Valley, 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 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,” Reichenbach said. “That’s why time is brain and why these partnerships are so beneficial.”