A Brown Deer man is grateful to be alive after the quick thinking of some North Shore Fire Rescue EMTs.
Back in May, Robert Braun says he had the worst headache of his life.
"This was extremely bad," Braun said. "It took the one side of my head and hit it so bad, I knew something was wrong."
His wife called 911 and when EMTs arrived, they quickly figured out Braun was having a stroke.
"They pretty quickly identified it as more than a simple headache and he may be having a stroke," Lt. Dan Tyk with North Shore Fire Rescue said. "They completed an assessment and determined he needed a higher level of stroke care than at any local hospital."
Under a new protocol, EMTs can assess the severity of a stroke. Minor stroke victims have the option of going to the closest hospital which can handle the issues.
Those, like Braun, who are having a large vessel occlusion (LVO) stroke are given the option to go to one of three stroke specialty centers. Froedtert, St. Luke's and Columbia St. Mary's all have advanced technology to give patients with severe strokes a better chance at survival.
"The advances in medicine are great," Tyk said. "But the advance sin strokes, the care we're able to provide the people, is incredible."
"With the advances, we have more time to work but still, time is brain as we like to put it," Dr. Gerald Nora, Medical Director of Ascension Sacred Heart Rehabilitation Institute said. "The sooner you get in, the much better chance we have at getting a long term outcome with the patient."
Braun was taken to Ascension Columbia-St. Mary's for his stroke. He wanted to go to his routine hospital in Grafton but heading to Columbia-St. Mary's likely saved his life. On top of being able to provide medicines to help the patients, they can do advanced procedures to break up and remove clots among others.
"In many cases, an extra 10 or 15 minutes on the road to get to a place where everything is in house would be seen as better for the patient," Nora said. "20 percent of strokes are a bleed in the brain. You can have a thunder clap headache or a sudden strong headache. Those are medically, extremely urgent. The paramedics were entirely correct to get him to an advanced stroke center for that care."
In Braun's case, he spent a few days in the hospital and had minimal damage. He says he has some memory loss and is a little shaky but all in all, is grateful to be alive.
"They brought my life back to me," Braun said. "I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for these guys."
With how serious strokes can be, Dr. Nora says the community should take any possible strokes seriously since time is of the essence.
"Because the stroke affects the brain, the sufferer may not know what's going on. If you see someone with difficulty speaking, with an arm weakness or facial droop, they need to call 911 immediately. It's not a good time to call a primary care physician. In many cases you should, but this is truly an emergency and every minute counts," Dr. Nora said.