Indy man credits IU Health Mobile Stroke Unit for saving his life: ‘We need more than one truck’

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – May is Stroke Awareness Month.

Did you know stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in Marion County?

It's a scary reality one Indianapolis man came face to face with. Now, he wants to make others aware of a program at IU Health that saved his life.

“She started noticing my speech, my face, my whole body just drawling,” said Wayne Smith, “I couldn’t even pick up my car keys, they felt like they weighed 1,000 pounds. They just kept dropping and dropping.”

In March, Smith was sitting with his sister when he started to notice something was wrong. His speech became slurred, his couldn’t lift his arm and he started to feel uneasy. In that moment, although he didn’t want her to, his sister called 911. In just 10 minutes, the IU Health Mobile Stroke Unit was in his driveway.

Right in his driveway, the team at IU Health performed a CT scan on Smith that revealed a blood clot to his brain. Via telemedicine, Dr. Jason Mackey was able to order a life-saving drug.

“Time is the name of the game,” said Mackey.

During this time, Smith was being transported to the hospital for further examination. He ended up spending only 11 days in the hospital. The experience opened his eyes on what the outcome could have been.

“When I was in the hospital, walking down the ward at night and looking at some of the other stroke victims, I was so blessed to have that come at that time,” he said.

The Mobile Stroke Unit was able to save his life. He didn’t have to have surgery because the clot was already gone by the time he arrived at the hospital, thanks to the medicine Mackey ordered on the ride over.

“Most of the studies are showing that this mobile unit cuts that time to treatment by 30 to 45 minutes, which is a lot of brain cells,” said Mackey.

Right now, IU Health is part of a research study on the impacts of mobile stroke units nationwide. The truck that saved Smith’s life is the only one in the state of Indiana. It’s a fairly new concept that was created in Houston in 2014. So far, there are 15 to 20 units across the country. Smith, along with the doctors at IU Health, said this unit is essential to saving lives and every hospital should have one.

“The outcome of other people is not so good,” said Smith, “That’s why it’s so important to get more of those trucks on the road. To have that one truck, that one truck come to my house, that day when I’m having a stroke, I thank God and these people here. It was just meant to be.”

Otis Mitchel is a program coordinator with the IU Health Mobile Stroke Unit and was part of the responding team that helped Smith.

“If we can just help a couple patients every year, all of those patients are going to add up,” said Mitchel, "These are patients that are going to be going home back to their families, not spending months or maybe even the rest of their lives in nursing homes and rehab facilities, being able to go to their children or grandchildren’s baseball games, family functions, things like that. That’s the goal and I think we’re moving that needle.”

Last month, once Smith was out of the hospital, the unit and team paid a visit to Smith at his house. Smith was able to see all of the capabilities of the truck and how it saved his life. Slowly, he’s getting back to normal life and has also stopped smoking.

If you would like to learn more about the IU Health Mobile Stroke Unit click here.

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