A conversation with…Uzoamaka Ugochukwu, MD ‘Dr. Ugo’
Augusta Health Shenandoah Valley Neurology
Medical Director, Augusta Health Stroke Team
As Medical Director of Augusta Health’s Stroke Team, Dr. Ugo works with professionals from around the Augusta Health system to educate staff and the community about strokes, prevent strokes and provide complete, wrap around care to patients who have experienced a stroke.
“When providing care for a patient who has had a stroke, it’s important to understand that each stroke patient has a unique experience,” says Dr. Ugo. “Depending on where the stroke occurred in the brain, there will be different impacts. Some will have difficulty speaking, others will have trouble with balance, and others will have trouble with remembering the sequence of doing tasks. If the patient is still working, getting back to their job is a big concern. Some patients need intensive rehab, or have no support system at home, so a stay at a Rehab or Skilled nursing facility is needed. Others can go home and be supported there.”
“That’s one of the reasons the Stroke Team is important,” she adds. “We are able to provide the best possible care for each patient and set individual ‘customized’ goals and treatment plans for each patient. Our team members have expertise in different disciplines and can each one can bring their perspectives to the discussion.”
Augusta Health is certified as a Primary Stroke Center. This means the hospital and the team undergo a rigorous review process every year to ensure they are meeting and exceeding the national standards for Stroke Care. These include standards regarding the administration of the clot-busting drug tPA, and the ability to care for and treat patients in the hospital. We review protocols and procedures, based on evidence, that align with the national guidelines.
The standards also include directives on prevention of stroke.
“Strokes are a leading cause of disability in the United States,” says Dr. Ugo, “and here, in our area, we are seeing a lot of younger people—those in their forties and fifties—who are having strokes. While we do have great capacity and expertise to care for them after a stroke, it is so much better to prevent the stroke from occurring in the first place. So we look to reduce risk factors for stroke. While some risk factors, such as age, can’t be changed, many risk factors can be controlled.”
“We work with patients to be sure that if a risk can be reduced, we reduce it,” Dr. Ugo continues. “That means working together and setting realistic goals to help manage high blood pressure or diabetes, coming up with a plan to eat healthier and get more exercise, and to stop smoking. All of those reductions usually require much encouragement and support. We work with the patients, their other doctors, and with special programs like our Tobacco Cessation Clinic to help our stroke patients.”
Augusta Health also works closely with UVA Telestroke personnel and their thrombectomy staff to treat stroke patients. “We can administer tPA here at Augusta Health to break up clots that are causing a stroke,” says Dr. Ugo, “and we have a four and a half hour window of opportunity after the stroke begins to use that drug. If the clot is big enough and we’re within 24 hours of the stroke, we can send the patient to UVA for a thrombectomy to remove the clot. Sometimes, treatment includes both tPA and thrombectomy. It’s very supportive teamwork between our Stroke Team here and our colleagues at UVA.”
Three things Dr. Ugo would like everyone to know about stroke and stroke care at Augusta Health:
- Strokes are preventable.
“I would rather see you in Walmart than in the hospital,” says Dr. Ugo. “Look at the list of stroke risk factors and work to reduce those that you can. We can help you reduce those risks.”
- We can improve the quality of your life if you have a stroke.
“We work as a team to develop unique treatment plans and goals to help you to return to the best life possible and prevent the next stroke.”
- If you think you are having a stroke, come into the Emergency Room as soon as possible.
“It’s very, very important to treat a stroke as soon as possible to reduce the impact the stroke will have on the patient’s life—and the life of their loved ones. The earlier a stroke is detected, the more treatment options there are available, and the better the chance for good outcomes.”
Dr. Ugo concludes. “We do our best work when we all join forces—the Stroke Team, the patient, the patient’s family and our other medical colleagues. We all bring something unique to the table. When we walk alone, we might miss something. When we walk together, we are a great team.”
STROKE RISK FACTORS
Stroke Risk Factors you can Control, Treat and Improve
- High Blood Pressure
- Physical Inactivity
- High Cholesterol
- Carotid Artery Disease
- Peripheral Artery Disease
- Atrial Fibrillation
- Other Heart Disease
- Sickle Cell Disease
Please discuss these conditions with your doctor to begin a plan of action to reduce your risk for stroke.
Stroke Risk Factors not within your Control
- Family History of Stroke—a parent, grandparent, sister or brother
- Race—Blacks have a higher risk of death from stroke than others
- Gender—Women have more strokes
- Prior Stroke, TIA or Heart Attack