First patient aided by remote service

Stroke victim Dame Elizabeth Hanan, of Dunedin, is the first patient to benefit from a new ‘‘telestroke’’ remote health service based in Christchurch. Photo: SDHB/Supplied
Stroke victim Dame Elizabeth Hanan, of Dunedin, is the first patient to benefit from a new ‘‘telestroke’’ remote health service based in Christchurch. Photo: SDHB/Supplied
A new video-link stroke service based in Christchurch has helped its first remote patient - in Otago - to a full recovery.

Lakes District Hospital in Frankton implemented the South Island’s new ‘‘telestroke’’ service in December, which enables neurologists and stroke specialists in Christchurch to provide advice and support via video link to doctors treating patients in smaller centres or after hours.

Dunedin woman Dame Elizabeth Hanan (82) was sitting down to dinner with her family at their holiday home in Arrowtown on Christmas Eve, when her daughters noticed her face looked lopsided and her speech was slurred.

Concerned their mother might have suffered a stroke they called an ambulance. Dame Elizabeth was admitted to Lakes District Hospital, where she became its first stroke patient to receive thrombolysis treatment via telehealth technology.

She was treated locally by Dr Jenny James who, via video link, performed an examination with Christchurch neurologist Dr Teddy Wu.

She received ‘‘clot-busting’’ thrombolysis treatment before being flown by helicopter to Invercargill Hospital, because of bad weather in Dunedin.

Two days later she was sent home to the acute stroke unit at Dunedin Hospital.

She has since made a full recovery, with no residual symptoms.

Dr James said the process went smoothly.

“Having an expert there who can see the patient and their scan with his own eyes to decide on the treatment with you really gives you confidence.

‘‘It also provides families with the reassurance their loved one is getting the best care possible.’’

Lakes District telestroke pathway project lead clinician Dr Susan Weggery said the system had only previously been tested using actors.

“The simulations were a learning experience on both sides and helped us iron out any kinks. Setting up the service was a real collaborative effort and it’s fantastic we got the first patient through, and it went as smoothly as it should have.’’

The new tool meant Lakes District could now offer acute stroke services alongside stroke rehabilitation, enabling improved outcomes, she said.

Dame Elizabeth said she felt ‘‘grateful and lucky’’ to have had the service on hand when she needed it.

‘‘Once you get to my age, you really need to be close to health services.

‘‘I’m extremely lucky - I feel like I dodged a bullet.’’

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