UK HealthCare's stroke program receives national designation

ctruman@herald-leader.comFebruary 17, 2014 

University of Kentucky HealthCare has been designated a Comprehensive Stroke Center by The Joint Commission and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

Michael Karpf, UK's executive vice president for health affairs, announced Monday that the selection fulfilled UK HealthCare's mission to connect Kentuckians with complex conditions to treatment within the state.

The classification "puts us in fine company," he said. UK HealthCare is one of 63 organizations in the United States with the designation, which means its hospital has staff, training and equipment for round-the-clock availability of specialized treatment. In the region, hospitals at the University of Louisville and University of Cincinnati also carry the designation.

Traci Beasley, 35, a stroke patient who teaches elementary school math in Anderson County, was at Monday's announcement to talk about her gratitude to UK HealthCare for getting her back into the classroom just a few months after her stroke in 2012.

Beasley, the mother of two young boys, was at a child's football game when she felt a popping sound, as if there was a sudden change in air pressure, followed by "the worst migraine I'd ever had.

"I was perfectly fine right before then. I was cheering, I was jumping, I was talking to my friends."

Beasley credited her husband and friends for realizing she did not have a typical migraine.

"I said: 'It's just a migraine. I want to go home and I want to go to sleep.' Somewhere in that statement, my words turned into gibberish."

Beasley's husband, Patrick, took her to Frankfort Regional Medical Center. When CAT scans showed bleeding in the brain, Beasley was flown to UK, where it was determined that a weak spot in a vein in Beasley's brain had ruptured.

She didn't grasp the gravity of her condition initially. She thought she would be back teaching school within a few days, and she remembers telling Dr. Justin Fraser that his job was to get her back to her regular routine.

The next thing she remembers was waking up five days later, not unusual for stroke patients, Fraser said. Stroke patients often have trouble remembering much of their treatment time.

Beasley had surgery to insert a tiny metal clip to seal the broken blood vessel, but then she developed a constriction of the arteries in the brain that limited blood flow. A second stroke was avoided by a surgical maneuver to deliver medicine directly to the brain via a catheter inserted through an artery in the groin.

Fraser asked Beasley during her recovery to repeat the sentence, "It's a sunny day in Lexington," even when there was no sun. He was testing her speech to evaluate the treatment's success, and to check for additional problems when Beasley's speech faltered, he said.

Beasley returned to teaching on Nov. 1, 2012, along with a helper to monitor her recovery.

Her sons, 4 and 9 years old, and her husband, an Anderson County deputy sheriff and K9 officer, joined her for Monday's news conference. Her family agreed that she's better than ever, with what Patrick Beasley described as "a better sense of smell than a coonhound." And she "can read our thoughts and finish our sentences," he said.

Traci Beasley said others who feel the same popping sensation followed by blinding pain should seek medical care.

If standard migraine medications don't lessen the pressure within about 20 minutes, Beasley said, "Get to a hospital. Don't wait on it. Don't sleep on it."

Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman.

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