The telestroke robot that saved a cabbie’s life

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Harry Metcalf was his usual self when he left for work as a taxi driver for Orange Cab on December 16. His wife, Sheila, said the “charmer” had no signs of any physical ailment that day.

But a few hours later, after he dropped off a customer in Beaverton around 8:15 p.m., the dispatch center called her to say Harry had a stroke and was on his way to Providence St. Vincent Medical Center.

Sheila Metcalf talks about the fast action that saved her husband, Harry, when he had a stroke, Jan. 13, 2016 (KOIN)

She told KOIN 6 News she was in shock. She didn’t know what to expect when she hit the emergency room.

“He had no strength, he couldn’t talk. He could move his eyes and move his head, but that was it,” she said. He couldn’t respond to his wife of 39 years. “It was very heartbreaking.”Harry’s story

Cab driver Harry Metcalf talks about the fast action that saved him when he had a stroke, Jan. 13, 2016 (KOIN)

Metcalf, 66, had just dropped off a customer and backed out of a driveway when he “started feeling really weird.”

He pulled off to the side and “had this feeling like I was on a trip or something.” He said he couldn’t see anything but thought it would pass in a few minutes.

It didn’t, and Harry passed out.

He came to and called his dispatcher, who called 911. The operator recognized Harry might be having a stroke and tracked where he was through his smart phone.The emergency room

Dr. Tomi Sampson with Providence Brain and Spine Institute on a telestroke device, Jan. 13, 2016 (KOIN)

Dr. Tomi Sampson, a neurologist with the Providence Brain and Spine Institute, was home and on call for a number of hospitals, including some in rural areas. But she had access to the technology to use a robot to access those ERs and evaluate patients.

“I got that phone call, booted up the robot and patched in from home,” Dr. Sampson told KOIN 6 News. “With help from the staff in the emergency departments we can do a full neurologic exam.”

In a stroke, she said, “time is brain.” Fast recognition and response and a fast arrival to the emergency room helps patients.

Face — Does the face look uneven?

Arm — Is one arm numb or drifting down?

Speech — Is speech slurred or jumbled?

Time — If you notice any of these signs, call 911

They noticed Harry was weak to one side, had facial droop and his speech was slurred. She ordered a clot-busting drug, and Metcalf left the hospital a few days later.

The Providence Brain and Spine Stroke Team has 17 active sites in Oregon, making it the largest telestroke provider in the state. They use the acronym FAST to help remember signs of a stroke.

Other symptoms of a stroke include sudden numbness, sudden confusion, vision trouble, trouble walking or being dizzy, sudden severe headache without a cause.

“So, fast evaluation, fast treatment and now you see how well Harry has done since then,” she said.The Metcalfs now

Harry said he’s feeling a little better every day. “We’re very grateful that this hospital worked as fast as they did.”

Sheila said Harry appreciates life a lot better now. “We both do,” she said.

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