OPELIKA, Ala. (WRBL) – Stroke, known as the silent killer, is the fifth leading cause of death in America and the number one cause of disability. In women, stroke kills more than breast and ovarian cancer combined. East Alabama Medical Center is amplifying its stroke program, knowing early detection and medical intervention can prove miraculous for families.
EAMC’s mission is to save lives and prevent disability. EAMC has developed an all-hands-on-deck approach; even during COVID-19, they have been working diligently to become a nationally accredited Stroke and Neuroscience Care Center. Last year, EAMC hired Nojan Valadi, M.D., FAAN, to the Medical Director of EAMC’s Neuroscience and Stroke Program.
“We want you to come here. We want to be the ones taking care of you because we know we can achieve excellent outcomes. I developed and started a stroke program at Columbus Regional approximately 12 years ago; after that, I went to St. Francis and led their stroke program to what it is today,” said Dr. Valadi.
Dr. Valadi was hired to work with EAMC’s team to create a robust stroke care center.
“To really develop a program that meets those quality metrics—providing a higher level of care that can treat those patients in a very timely fashion. In the setting of stroke care, time is of the essence. Time is brain. Collaborating with EMS to take care of stroke patients, then being able to receive patients in the emergency department, expedite their care and get them the studies they need and the care they need with neurology and stroke physicians managing the patient in the first 20 to 45 minutes,” said Dr. Valadi.
Jayme Gardner, RN, BSN, is the stroke coordinator for East Alabama Medical Center. Garnder says the hospital is focusing on educating staff hospital-wide regarding stroke detection and quick intervention. Gardner is responsible for tracking patient information in a database to meet protocol and procedure goals set forth by the hospital for stroke care.
“A lot of it is collecting and monitoring the data we have here; we want to know and make sure patients are getting the appropriate care in a timely fashion,” said Gardner.
But the race to save lives begins with you and early detection. Don’t be afraid to overreact if you suspect a loved one or yourself is having a stroke. A good acronym for stroke symptoms is BE FAST – Balance, Eyes, Face, Arm, Speech, and finally Time – to call 911.
“If someone is having difficulty with balance, difficulty with their eyes or vision, double vision or blurred vision, facial droopiness, arm weakness, slurred speech, or difficulty talking, it’s time to call 911. People should not wait to see if their symptoms get better. The sooner you can get to the hospital, the more we can do for you. We have a very narrow window of time,” said Dr. Valadi.
Dr. Valadi’s passion for medicine and specifically stroke care is evident upon meeting him. The mission is personal and began at an early age when his family immigrated to the U.S. Dr. Valadi’s mom has multiple sclerosis and did not speak the language. As a child, Valadi would interpret for her during her doctor’s appointments. Valadi wanted to understand what the doctors were saying to explain it to his mom and family.
“My mother has multiple sclerosis. My grandfather has had strokes. He passed away a couple of years ago. My aunt passed away from an aneurysm, so I have a personal connection to it. I was the one who found myself helping my family after they immigrated to the United States. My mom went to see physician after physician in two different countries, the language of which she didn’t understand or speak. I was the one who is interpreting for her. I found myself in a central and pivotal role, being the one to explain complex science and medicine to her and the rest of my family, yet I didn’t know a whole lot about it. So, it helped guide me. I found myself being guided into developing an interest in trying to learn more about it. Eventually, down the line, I ended up becoming a physician interested in neuroscience and neurology,” explained Dr. Valadi.
As his career in medicine continued, Dr. Valadi found caring for stroke patients was his calling and ultimate passion.
“Stroke is such a critical illness for which we can rush to the scene do something very, very quickly, and that’s a little bit of an adrenaline rush for me. Being able to do something very quickly for patients and turn them around very quickly and have them immediately have a better outcome,” explained Dr. Valadi.