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Johnson City Medical Center establishes region's first comprehensive stroke center

Brandon Paykamian • Jan 9, 2018 at 10:52 PM

Hospital officials say Johnson City Medical Center’s newly certified stroke center could mean the difference between life and death for some patients.

Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia have some of the highest rates of stroke in the country, and on Tuesday, the regional hospital joined only 150 others in the nation certified to provide advanced, highly specialized stroke care.

The medical center earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Heart-Check Mark for Advanced Certification for Comprehensive Stroke Centers, the highest level of certification available for stroke care. To receive the designation, hospitals must demonstrate compliance with stroke-related standards as a primary stroke center and meet additional requirements, including those related to advanced imaging capabilities, 24/7 availability of specialized treatments and providing staff with the unique education to care for complex stroke patients.

Drs. Brian Mason and Chip Massey, two neuroendovascular surgeons with more than 35 years of experience between them, said the work of their team has helped save many lives over the years. Using minimally invasive surgical techniques, they’ve both treated numerous cases of hemorrhagic and ischemic strokes.

Aside from having the necessary surgical skills for their recent designation, Mason said time is of the essence when treating serious strokes of either type. Once a stroke patient arrives for treatment, Mason and Massey get to work immediately.

“Some of the stringent criteria we have are our door-to-medication treatment time is less than 60 minutes and our door-to-surgery time is less than 90 minutes,” Mason said.

Nearly two years ago, Kimberly Coates suffered a hemorrhagic stroke. After a long road to recovery after her stay at Johnson City Medical Center, she is doing much better. She is grateful for the work of Massey and Mason, who she credits her well-being to.

Though Coates is still dealing with the aftermath of the stroke, she joins less than 25 percent of patients in her condition. Out of 100 cases, only about 5 percent go on to live the life Coates lives today.

“I feel very good. My voice is a little softer, sometimes my eyes blur a little bit and sometimes I don’t remember things immediately, but that could be old age, too,” she said. “I would do anything for them (Mason and Massey) knowing they saved my life.”

On Dec. 20, Tim Estes’ daughter Ashley Hale, 23, suffered a serious stroke resulting from a clot in her brain. Now, after receiving her treatment at the hospital, she joins other stroke survivors on the road to recovery. Both Estes and Hale are optimistic that her post-stroke therapy will help her reclaim her life as it was before the stroke.

“It affects you in many ways. You wonder if your child is going to pass on before you do, and that’s not something that’s normal — you don’t want to bury your children,” Estes said. “We were very fortunate. God looked down and smiled on us and gave us a Christmas miracle because we were here in intensive care through Christmas. My daughter was carried in on the 20th and she walked out on the 30th of December.

“She’s a walking testimony. She’s doing extremely well. Had it not been for the hospital and the capabilities (of Massey and Mason), she would probably not be here today.”

To learn more about Johnson City Medical Center’s stroke center, visit www.mountainnstateshealth.com.

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