“Mommy, you need to come home. Daddy’s had a stroke.” That’s the phone call Sheila Allen of High Point received last April, while out of town on business. Her two young daughters had called 911 and paramedics had taken her 51-year-old husband Steven to the hospital.
As she rushed home, she found out that Steven had actually suffered three strokes – the third one as he was being loaded into the ambulance to be taken to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. He spent more than a month in Wake Forest Baptist’s neurosciences intensive care unit, and another couple of weeks undergoing rehab at the J. Paul Sticht Center at Wake Forest Baptist.
Allen, who retired after serving 20 years in the U.S. Navy, was determined to not give up. While he still uses a wheelchair to get around, he is now able to walk short distances, talk, eat and even cook for his family – something he has always enjoyed.
“Obviously, this has been a life-changing event for our family, as we have had to adjust to our new routines,” said Sheila. “But this has also allowed us to make great friends – not only with the doctors and nurses who took care of Steven – but also with other people who are going through the same thing we are.”
Some of those new friends are people who they’ve met at community events organized by the COMPASS study – events designed to provide researchers with feedback from stroke survivors and their families.
COMPASS stands for COMprehensive Post-Acute Stroke Services and is a five-year study throughout North Carolina, funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) – a nonprofit organization authorized by Congress to fund comparative clinical effectiveness research – to investigate post-acute stroke care models aimed at improving patient outcomes and reducing hospital re-admissions.
It compares the health status of stroke patients who receive conventional post-hospitalization treatment to that of patients who receive comprehensive care based on a model developed by a team of physicians, nurses, therapists, pharmacists, health system leaders and community agents.
The team is led by Cheryl Bushnell, M.D., professor of neurology and director of the Wake Forest Baptist Stroke Center, Pamela Duncan, Ph.D., physical therapist, health services researcher and professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist and Wayne Rosamond, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
A secondary goal is to measure and reduce the degree of caregiver stress.
There are 41 hospitals and more than 2,500 patients across the state now enrolled in the study, with patients, caregivers and health care providers receiving continuing education and training from study leaders.
“The objective of COMPASS is to coordinate care across providers to catch people before they fall through the cracks,” said Bushnell, co-principal investigator of the study. “Life is very complicated after a stroke and if we can work with the community to help patients manage their health better, we can make such a positive difference in the lives of not only patients, but their caregivers as well.”
While it’s too early in the study for researchers to report any results, it’s evident that Allen continues to recover from his stroke. He’s looking forward to throwing some ribs on the grill on Memorial Day, learning how to drive again and continuing to inspire and motivate others who are in the same position he was this time last year.
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