American Heart Association and Helmsley Charitable Trust announce $4.8 million commitment to expand, enhance stroke care in Montana
Stroke, like heart attack, can happen suddenly to any person at anytime, anywhere. Like heart attack victims, stroke victims need help immediately. Luckily a modern clot-busting drug called TPA has been developed that has been shown to be effective at preventing the worst impacts of a stroke, but it can only be administered to a patient within four hours of the onset of the symptoms. This makes recognizing the symptoms of stroke and acting quickly to get access to the treatment for stroke of vital importance.
This is the message that one local stroke survivor, Dorinda Troutman of Hamilton, would like to help people understand. She didn’t make it to the hospital in enough time. She suffered a stroke in 2018. Her husband Ted recognized the signs and took action. But the Troutmans experienced the “layers of steps” it can take to get proper stroke care. She survived the incident but was paralyzed on one side of her body and is still recovering.
Troutman, who for many years wrote the popular “Bird Seed” column in the Bitterroot Star, recently lent her support to the American Heart Association and the Helmsley Charitable Trust in the announcement of their $4.8 million commitment to expand and enhance stroke care in Montana. She joined the public announcement of the two organization’s “Lifeline Stroke” initiative from her wheelchair on the back porch of her home and urged people to educate themselves about the signs of stroke because it could save someone’s life, or possibly save them from having to go through what she is going through.
She said that she was hoping to see the sky, but it was cloudy and rainy and she couldn’t. She shrugged. “It could be worse,” she said, “That’s what I say about a lot now, including stroke.” She said she found out recently that Walt Whitman, “our great American poet” also had the same thing happen to him in 1853 when he was in his early 50s.
“Ten years later he was able to walk,” she said, “with a limp, but he recovered and attributed his recovery to being out in nature as much as possible. That’s what I try to do, too. I have a garden out back and a flock of Icelandic chickens that I enjoy tremendously and I spend a lot of time out in the vegetable garden with my chickens. I am also close enough to the forest that I can get up into the forest and the lakes and the creeks and spend some time in the woods and moving in my wheelchair along the creek and in the trees.
“And I feel like that is my greatest possibility for being able to walk again,” she said, “besides the really great physical therapists that I also have and my care givers.” She has four caregivers.
“I am constantly told by these professionals how lucky I am, as though I didn’t know that already. I really do know that. They are a true team. Each of them in their own way helps me get better and better every day,” she said. She also thanked the Helmsley Trust and said she was familiar with their name for sponsoring Montana Public Television programs and thanked them for their interest in stroke and preventing stroke and helping stoke survivors with their new initiative.
“The Lifeline Stroke Initiative is the American Heart Association’s program for transforming stroke care,” said Kathy Rogers, Executive Vice President Western States, of the American Heart Association. “By creating a seamless and comprehensive system of care, we are able to improve stroke outcomes for patients. We are immensely grateful for the generous support of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, and for its commitment in helping us create longer, healthier lives in Montana.” She said that with the clock ticking for a stroke victim it is essential that all parts of the health treatment department are linked effectively and efficiently for seamless care.
She said the initiative brings together hospitals, emergency medical services and first responders, communications and regulatory agencies, state and local government, and payers to forge a proactive system of stroke care that saves and improves lives.
In Montana, where over half the population lives in rural areas, access to stroke neurologists is only available at urban hospitals and through limited Telestroke programs. This $4.8 million grant will support the current statewide Montana Stroke Initiative to address gaps in the consistent delivery of high-quality stroke care, ensuring that all stroke patients in Montana have the best chance at survival and independent quality of life, according to Rogers.
Walter Penzier, Trustee of The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, said that over the last 10 years the trust has invested over $460 million in various initiatives to improve health care in the seven upper midwestern states.
“Our aim is to bridge gaps in public health care, especially in rural, sparsely populated areas. Everybody should have the opportunity to have the same high quality health care,” said Penzier. “Now we recognize that strokes are a major killer and disabler in much of our rural population. And like heart attacks, people having strokes in rural areas face coordination challenges and challenges in transport and time sensitivity needs, because when you have a stroke time is of the utmost importance in order to get that life-saving, clot-busting drug.
“Our goal is to cut the time so that folks in the rural areas have the same positive outcomes as the urban dwellers,” he said. He said he was very pleased to announce the grant and that he believed that Montana can be a model for the rest of the nation for how to coordinate and care for strokes.
Dr. Gregory Holzman, State Medical Director with Public Health and Human Services, said that he was really proud of what has been accomplished in Montana and excited about what’s to come.
“We’ve been working to streamline stroke care in Montana for over a decade through the Montana Stroke Initiative coordinated by the cardiovascular health program with the DHHS,” said Holzman. He said the initiative’s work group consisted of many people outside the cardiovascular program including doctors, nurses, EM services, public health experts, stroke rehabilitation specialists, and survivors. The group has brought Telestroke to Montana which allows for rapid analysis of suspected stroke patients over video, has helped develop critical response sets for Critical Care Hospitals helping ensure that quality standards are being met. It has sponsored and developed media campaigns to improve the recognition of stroke, and knowledge of what to do if someone displays stroke symptoms and has developed stroke awareness conferences and created a Stroke Initiative Award for Critical Access Hospitals.
“We are proud of the solid foundation we have built here in Montana and are very excited to work with the Hemsley Foundation and the American Heart Association over the next three years to further enhance and expand this system of care,” said Holzman.
He said the integrative system will forge a stronger stroke care response, undoubtedly improving stroke outcomes and saving lives.
“We are excited about what’s to come and want to thank the Hemsley Foundation and the American Heart Association for their support of stroke patients and their families,” he said.
“This ongoing commitment from the Helmsley Charitable Trust will directly touch the lives of all Montanans and for this I am very grateful,” said Kurt Lindsay, MD, a Neurology Specialist in Kalispell. He said the stroke treatment is time-sensitive, so getting patients the proper treatment faster, is crucial.
“This grant is going to provide us with the tools to push this bar forward especially in helping rural stroke health care. Historically we’ve known about the inequity in treatment between rural and urban centers. This investment is going to be particularly impactful in our rural areas,” he said.