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Mobile Stroke Unit Makes All the Difference for Catasauqua Man

When Raymond Raysely had a stroke just before Thanksgiving 2021, he was able to get crucial medication just 37 minutes later thanks to a unique LVHN mobile unit

On a Monday afternoon just before Thanksgiving 2021, Raymond Raysely stood over a mixer in the kitchen of his Catasauqua home helping his wife prepare her special holiday filling when he suddenly began to feel drowsy.

“I couldn’t turn off the mixer,” says the 79-year-old Raysely. “My wife was asking me what was wrong, and I couldn’t tell her.  I don’t remember much after that.”

But Susan Raysely remembers like it was yesterday.

“I kept yelling at him and he finally turned to me, and I could see the side of his mouth drooping,” she says. “I had him sit down, but as he tried to, he kind of crumpled to the ground. I called 911 and told them I thought he was having a stroke.”

Help is on its way

Lehigh Valley Health Network’s (LVHN) Mobile Stroke Unit (MSU) was dispatched by the Cetronia Communications Center and Lehigh County Radio for mutual aid assistance.

“Our call log indicates Raymond collapsed around 3 p.m.,” says Ken Reichenbach, Program Director Mobile Stroke Unit. “By 3:20 p.m. we were examining him in the mobile stroke unit. Once a patient is in the mobile stroke unit, it’s as though the patient is in a neurological emergency room.”

But before that, a team of emergency medical technicians (EMT) and paramedics from Northampton Regional Emergency Medical Services was on the scene at the Raysely home assisting Raymond.

“I remember a young female EMT taking one look at Raymond and knowing it was a stroke,” Susan says. “By that time, he could hardly move or talk at all. Next thing I know, they were putting him into their ambulance and meeting with the LVHN unit up the street.”

Mobile stroke unit in action

Raymond was transferred into the mobile stroke unit, which is manned by a paramedic and an EMT as well as a pre-hospital registered nurse and a computed tomography (CT) technologist. Using the CT scanner supplied in the truck, they work directly with a neurologist back at the LVHN emergency department through telehealth technology.

The goal is to determine whether the stroke has been caused by a blood clot or a hemorrhage.

“The saying among stroke experts is ‘time is brain,’” says neurologist Preet Varade, MD, of LVPG Neurocritical Care. “In Raymond’s case, it was a clot that caused his stroke. Using the MSU, we can bring the CT technology to you, rather than you coming to us at the emergency room. This is crucial because the sooner you can open the blood vessel, the better the outcome will be.”

“Without the work we were able to do with the MSU, it’s likely Raymond would have had some significant impairments.” - Preet Varade, MD

On Varade’s direction, clot-busting medications were administered to Raymond by 3:37 p.m. Upon arrival at the emergency department, Raymond underwent mechanical thrombectomy, a procedure to enter the arteries and restore blood flow. Susan says when she saw her husband in the ED, he was already able to talk and raise his arms and legs again.

A heart problem that the Rayselys were told had caused the clot has since been addressed as well.

“Without the work we were able to do with the MSU, it’s likely Raymond would have had some significant impairments,” Varade says. “It’s wonderful that we were able to be part of such a great story.”

Partnership for rapid stroke care

LVHN launched the first mobile stroke unit in Pennsylvania in 2019 in conjunction with Cetronia Ambulance Corps., which stores the unit at its South Whitehall Township facility. The unit primarily serves the Cetronia coverage area in Lehigh County, which also includes South Whitehall Township, Upper Macungie Township, Whitehall Township, Lynn Township, Weisenberg Township and portions of Lowhill Township. There are just 20 mobile stroke units across the U.S.

LVHN’s MSU averages about 10 cases a week, being dispatched simultaneously with Cetronia Emergency Management Services. LVHN also has partnerships with Boyertown Emergency Management Services and Macungie Emergency Management Services to assist their community members with stroke-like symptoms.

But Reichenbach hopes to expand this service to other areas, with other ambulance services as well. The Raysely case was a perfect example of how such a partnership can make a difference.

“We were able to arrange a rendezvous point with Northampton Regional, and it resulted in faster treatment and helped in reducing Raymond’s disability,” Reichenbach says. “Being able to initiate the clot-busting medication and transporting Raymond to our Comprehensive Stroke Center made a difference in his outcome.”

Susan Raysely is quick to tell as many people as she can, too.

“I’ve told friends, people at the grocery store, just about everybody about it,” she says. “What these wonderful people did for Raymond was a miracle. We’re so thankful.”

 Raymond Raysely gets help from LVHN Mobile Stroke Unit

Mobile Stroke Unit

Pennsylvania’s first Mobile Stroke Unit brings stroke care right to your front door, performing assessment and beginning treatment during those critical moments while you travel to the hospital.

Learn more

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