When Seconds Matter: Life-Saving Stroke Care


On January 5, 2021, 79-year-old Martha Cooper had just come home from doing errands and was having lunch. She did not feel right.

“I felt like there was a big knot between my shoulder blades. My husband massaged it but it still did not feel right. I called the nurse at Newbury Court, the retirement community where I live. The nurse came to see me, and then my right arm became weak.” The nurse called 911.

Martha’s instincts and the medical care she received saved her life

When first responders came to her home, they quickly assessed her and alerted Emerson Hospital’s emergency department (ED) that she was en-route by ambulance. When she arrived, she was seen immediately by a team of experienced clinicians. After a CAT scan to rule out bleeding in her brain, her diagnosis was revealed: Martha was having a stroke.

She quickly received the clot busting drug Alteplase, a tissue plasminogen activator, more commonly known as tPA. Martha said she could feel the tPA “kicking in right away.” TPA dissolves blood clots and allows blood flow to resume to the affected areas of the brain to prevent or reduce permanent damage. When someone experiences stroke symptoms, there is a very short window of time to administer tPA. The best outcomes are when patients call 911 as soon as they notice any symptoms, as Martha did — instead of waiting to see if the symptoms resolve.

Using Emerson’s telestroke program with Mass General Hospital (MGH), an MGH neurologist specializing in stroke care evaluated Martha in the ED via video conference and consulted with Claire Carrazco, DO, an Emerson neurologist who was treating Martha.

After a two-night stay in Emerson’s critical care unit, where she was evaluated closely by physicians, nurses, and physical and occupational therapists (PTs and OTs), Martha was discharged home. A PT and an OT from Emerson Home Care worked with her for two weeks until she regained her strength. Martha has been living her regular life ever since. “I am very grateful for the excellent care I received at Emerson,” she explained.

As a stroke survivor, Martha recommends everyone be aware of changes in their health and call for help when needed. When she experienced unusual pain in her shoulder blade area, and arm weakness, she knew she needed immediate medical help.

“For 53 years, my family has used Emerson for our medical care. Three of our daughters were born at Emerson. It is wonderful to have the right expertise in our community for health issues.”