When Stroke Strikes, No Time to Waste: Rapid Recognition and Reaction Turn Tide


I remember feeling paralyzed on my right side. I wasn't frightened because I didn't understand what was going on.

-Chris McLachlin, stroke patient at Stanford Stroke Center

It took a year, but McLachlin recovered nearly all of his abilities. He's been well enough to fill in as a coach for the past two years with the Stanford University Men's Volleyball team. He always does the warm-ups with the team.

When McLachlin had his stroke, friends recognized immediately what it was and called 911. Getting help quickly can make the difference between recovery and disability.

Stanford's a big campus, so I do a lot of walking. I still play tennis and golf when I can.

-Chris McLachlin, stroke patient at Stanford Stroke Center

McLachlin has become an active advocate for steps people can take to keep track of their health, like regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks.


The Stanford Stroke Center has recently developed a ground-breaking protocol to expedite treatment for patients transferred from other hospitals. Called the SIRS (Stroke Interventional Radiology Service) Rapid Access Program, the protocol includes streamlined communications to ensure rapid acceptance to the Stanford Stroke Center for patients from outside hospitals, regardless of immediate bed availability.

SIRS also includes evaluation of the case by a collaborative, multidisciplinary team of stroke experts so a treatment plan is ready when a patient arrives. SIRS also includes a checklist that sets out specific times within which actions must be taken and completed; it also contains a list of information to be gathered. A simultaneous page goes out to mobilize responders from all over the hospital, including specialists in anesthesia, imaging, diagnostic radiology, critical care nursing, pharmacy, respiratory therapy and intensive care. SIRS's special interventional neuroradiology team care is available 24/7 to remove blood clots from a patient's brain if that procedure is required.

SIRS was created to gain every second possible between a stroke and treatment. Some medications are only effective if administered within a certain time frame, and the speeded transfer process improves the odds that such medications will be effective in reducing stroke damage.

We have imaging tools that allow for rapid and real-time elucidation of information that tells us just what's happened to the brain.

-Neil Schwartz, MD, PhD, Stanford Stroke Center