HICKORY — Herbert Punch does not have a negative bone in his body. The 86-year-old was all smiles as his charisma filled Catawba Valley Medical Center’s conference room in September. It was hard to believe he suffered a stroke a little over two months ago.
Punch’s arrival and T.P.A
On the morning of July 9, Punch sat up on his bed wanting to move, but he couldn’t. He started vomiting soon after. His wife called their daughter who came over and made the decision that her father had to be brought to the hospital.
Dr. Sam Ritter was the emergency room physician who oversaw Punch’s case upon his arrival.
“He arrived with stroke like symptoms, but he was out of the time frame to get T.P.A.,” Ritter said.
T.P.A. or tissue plasminogen activator is a drug that has showed promise in treating stroke patients, but there are risks.
“T.P.A. is a kind of medication people who show up within three to four hours within the symptoms could get,” Ritter said. “It can reverse some of a stroke’s effects, but it is not a medication that can be taken lightly. If administered to the wrong patient, it can cause bleeding into the brain.”
It is because of these risks, the Catawba Valley Medical Center partners with Wake Forest Baptist Health to ensure a patients safety.
There is a robot at CVMC that allows emergency physicians and primary nurses to interact with neurologists at Winston-Salem that allows them to efficiently make decisions on whether or not a patient can receive T.P.A. since the timing is so important.
“I think the two organizations coordinate well together,” Ritter said. “They are well connected and work together seamlessly.”
After determining Punch could not receive T.P.A., he was admitted to the third floor. The decision was made for Punch to have a procedure to put in a loop recorder.
Loop recorders, which are about the size of a pencil lead, monitor heart activity for up to two years.
After the surgery, Punch was brought up to the fourth floor for inpatient rehab.
During his two week stay at CVMC, Punch received three hours of therapy every day that included a mix of physical, occupational and speech/recreational therapy.
Once a patient is ready to be discharged, the CVMC stroke team meets and determines the best course of action. For Punch, that meant going home to his family.
Punch’s wife Marilyn Punch described what her family has done to help her husband.
“Our daughter and son retired to help us,” Marilyn Punch said. “We are so blessed.”
Punch loves being social. The toughest transition since having his stroke is the fact he can’t leave the house and visit friends as often as he used to.
He used to go to Mountain View BBQ in Hickory every morning and hang out with the boys.
“It was hard on me until the last couple of weeks,” Herbert Punch said. “My wife takes me there once a week, and then we go out for breakfast once a week. If I can get to where I can drive again, I would be the happiest man alive.”
Punch’s wife was grateful for the care he received.
“They’ve all been so great,” she said. “We don’t have one bad thing to say, they treated us so well.”
CVMC Stroke Center
CVMC was a recipient of the Women’s Choice Award in August, recognized as one of America’s best stroke centers.
In a press release, Neurologist and Medical Director of CVMC's Stroke team Dr. Robert Yapundich commented on the award’s significance.
“Our CVMC stroke team works hard to detect strokes early and provide interventional treatments to minimize what can be extremely devastating effects,” Yapundich said. “This credential signifies a strong commitment to providing extraordinary healthcare and is based on publicly available evidence-based data as well as statistics that articulate what women consider important when making decisions for themselves and their families.”
This was reflected in Herbert Punch’s case as it was his daughter’s decision to take him to the hospital.
Ritter believes the CVMC Stroke Center’s system plays a large role in their success.
“I think it’s a systemic change on how we are handling strokes,” Ritter said. “There is also an increase in the amount of public knowledge, as well as an increase in training. I think the big thing is the standardized approach to how to handle someone who comes in with a stroke.”
CVMC has a multi-disciplinary rehab team that meets at least once a week to come up with a plan for the best care for their patients. They then enter meetings with patients’ families so they all are on the same page, providing stability to the care a patient receives.
CVMC also is the only CARF accredited medical center in the Hickory area.
According to CARF’s website, their accreditation “signals a service provider's commitment to continually improving services, encouraging feedback, and serving the community.”
CVMC also offers monthly stroke support group meetings for stroke sufferers and their families.
Despite the life setback, Herbert Punch enjoyed his time at CVMC.
“This hospital stay was a great time,” Punch said.