Patient Perspective: The Benefits of Telestroke

The morning Bridget Cramblitt of Littlestown woke up with high blood pressure and dizziness, she suspected something was a bit off.

“I knew right away that something was not right, and I had my children call 911,” Cramblitt says.

In fact, Cramblitt had suffered a stroke – but the way doctors diagnosed and treated her utilized an up-and-coming technology that’s unconventional to some patients.

Once Cramblitt was rushed to the WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital emergency department, medical staff used telestroke technology to allow Cramblitt and her family to video conference with a specialized physician stationed elsewhere.

“I couldn’t answer questions,” Cramblitt says. “I heard everyone; I could see everyone; I understood what was being said, but I could not answer anybody’s questions without stuttering or just going off in a different direction, so they brought in the computer on wheels, which is the telemedicine, and then a physician popped up on the screen and he began to assess me and [talk] to me.”

The physician diagnosed Cramblitt as having had a stroke, and ordered the staff at Gettysburg Hospital to administer tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA. This particular medication is the only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic strokes, and must be given within three to four and a half hours of a patient’s stroke.

“It was wonderful knowing I had help right there on a screen in front of me, and I didn’t have to wait to take an ambulance or a plane ride to get help,” Cramblitt says. “That was the best. I was diagnosed right here and then I was stabilized, and then I was taken for further treatment.”

Dr. Stefan Rosenbach, an emergency physician at WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital, says new technology, like telestroke, is especially beneficial to smaller hospitals.

“Ideally, you would want to have a neurologist in the E.R. stationed there for every emergency that you have, but the reality is, a lot of small community hospitals, like Gettysburg, we don’t have that luxury. There are specialists that are not available in person all the time, 24 hours a day, so this is kind of the next best option to have the expertise available through telemedicine.”
But Rosenbach admits some patients are still hesitant to use the technology.

“I try to convince a skeptical patient by reassuring them that there’s a person on the other end of the camera, and that person has their interest at heart and is caring for them. Although they can’t lie hands on the patient and physically touch the patient, they often have the same level of compassion and care for that patient, even though they’re not physically at the bedside with them.”

However, Cramblitt sees telestroke as a positive for her community.

“I think that the opportunity is wonderful because we have a lot of older and elderly people here, and having that opportunity here in Gettysburg allows them to get the treatment fast and allows their families to be with them. Personally, that’s the biggest thumbs-up for me.”

Cramblitt credits the use of telestroke as greatly helping when every second counted.

“As far as I’m concerned, it did save my life. I made it [to the hospital.] I got the tPA, and…I walked out two days later. It was amazing. It really was.”

A note of disclosure: WellSpan Health underwrites content on this website.