Special Reports

KSNT Special Report: Surviving a stroke

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) - More than 18 thousand people live in Osage County, of those 18 thousand, if just one has a stroke, the odds of them surviving are not high.

The grim odds stems from a list of data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that found Osage County to be the deadliest county for stroke victims in the state of Kansas.

With May being Stroke Awareness month, health leaders in Osage County asked KSNT News to shed light on the problem in Osage County, and what solutions exist, that will help turn that number around.

Problem #1- Not knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke.

Walter Gibson, considers himself lucky after he survive not one, but two strokes at his home in Osage County.

 "I didn't respond, I didn't realize I was having a stroke," Gibson said in an interview to KSNT News Anchor Brooke Lennington.

When Brooke asked if it was because he didn't know the symptoms, Gibson said, "Yeah."

His lack of not know he was having a stroke isn't uncommon according to Con Olson, Director of ambulance service in Osage County.

Olson said the other problem they run into when someone doesn't realize they're having a stroke, is they wait to call 911.

Problem #2- Waiting to call for help.

Every minute a stroke victim waits to call for help, the higher their chances become of being permanently disabled or dying.

"A lot of people will survive their stroke, what they need to understand is that it's fixable," Olson said.

But in order for it be fixed, a stroke victim must be taken to the emergency room.

"Osage County is one of the largest counties without a hospital in Kansas," Olson said.

Problem #3- No hospital located in the county

With no hospital, that means there is no emergency room, which means stroke victims from Osage County have to be rushed to one of the hospitals in a city nearby.

"From the time they call 911, it could be 30 minutes to an hour to get into the ER," Olson said.

Problem #4- Response time in getting stroke victims emergency help

Both times Gibson had his stroke several hours passed before he visited the emergency room.

He now struggles to remember things and has a tough time communicating.

"It's no fun, I'll tell them it's no fun," Gibson said.

But when you compare him to Anne Gray, an Osage County woman who had a similar stroke, only she was in Topeka when she had her stroke.

"I had immediate medical care and in 20 minutes I was at the hospital," Gray said.

Today she has virtually no long term side effects from her stroke.

Anne's doctor, Tammy Patterson, says short of building a new hospital, the solution to fixing the problem with high stroke deaths in Osage County comes down to two simple things, prevention and education.

Patterson says many strokes can be prevented when people are consistently going in for routine check-ups. 

During those appointments Patterson can rule out whether a patient is at risk of having a stroke.

"Especially those people that think, oh this could never happen to me," Patterson said.  "Educating them to know that yes it can happen to you and these are things that you can do to keep it from happening."

Patterson says most stroke can be prevented by doing the following:

•    Treating high blood pressure
•    Quitting smoking
•    Losing weight
•    Exercising at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days per week
•    Drinking in moderation
•    Controlling and treating diabetes and high cholesterol
•    Knowing family history

The second solution, knowing how to spot a stroke.

Which can be quickly remembered by knowing the acronym F.A.S.T.

F- Face drooping
A- Arm weakness
S- Speech difficulty
T- Time to call 911

It's not just crucial that everyone in Osage County be aware of how to prevent and know how to spot a stroke.

According to the CDC several of the top 10 deadliest counties for stroke victims in Kansas are located in northeast Kansas.

More proof that it's on all of us to educate our friends, family members and co-workers about stroke.

It could be the difference between saving your life, or the life of someone you know.



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