"We live in the stroke belt of the United States. We have the highest death rate associated with stroke," said Dr. Ana Felix, co-director of the UNC Stroke Unit.
The new stoke unit at the
University of North Carolina
hopes to help bring those numbers down.
Ashley Anderson was one attendee at the center's opening ceremony. Anderson is 14 years old and has already survived a stroke.
"I stumbled, and then from then on, I wasn't able to speak or walk straight in a straight line," she said.
Anderson's stroke was a complication of her lupus. Her mother said she knew the warning signs and got her daughter to the hospital in time.
Felix says she believes the new center will give the necessary care to stroke patients.
"This is the first time we've integrated and had specially-trained nursing staff, specially-trained doctors and a whole team to take care of stroke patients," Felix said.
Only a few other hospitals in North Carolina have stroke units, she said.
UNC hopes to share resources and treatment information with rural areas, which tend to have higher stroke death rates.
Doctors said the center aims to help treat stroke victims within the first three hours of symptoms.
"Those first three hours go by very quickly, and the sooner people get to care, the better they are in the long run," Dr. Frank Longo, chairman of the UNC's neurology department.
The stroke unit also emphasizes prevention.
"Until we come up with a way we can cure everyone that's had a stroke I think we need do everything we can to prevent them from happening in the first place," Felix said.
Regular stroke screenings also help people learn warning signs and risk factors associated with strokes.
"My family has high blood pressure but mine was fine. It was normal," said Anderson.
She said her life is almost back to that of a normal 14-year-old.
"Right now, I'm great. There's no sign that I had a stroke," Anderson said.
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