By Steven Cymbrowitz | October 29, 2019

In 2016, 6,258 New Yorkers tragically lost their lives to stroke according to the latest available data. Nationwide, stroke is considered a leading cause of disability as somewhere between 15% to 30% of survivors are permanently disabled.

I am a stroke survivor, which makes October 29th – World Stroke Day – personally meaningful to my family and me. We are very fortunate that the stroke I had suffered was diagnosed and treated as quickly as it was so that today I could be part of the effort to improve outcomes for all stroke patients.

Many may not realize it, but the reason a stroke can have such a devastating impact on someone’s life is because it’s the result of a clot depriving the brain of oxygen. Until the patient is treated, they could lose up to two million brain cells each minute from the lack of oxygen, particularly in the case of an Emergent Large Vessel Occlusion (ELVO), the deadliest form of an ischemic stroke.

For New Yorkers, there is good news. Earlier this year, our state took an important step forward toward improving our system of stroke care when the Department of Health adopted a new rule that established a three-tiered stroke center designation system. Now, we need to take the next step to ensure that patients suffering from the most severe cases of stroke, such as ELVO, are transported directly to the most appropriate facility that is best-equipped to treat them.

That is why I introduced A8255, legislation intended to build on the great progress our state has made through the Department of Health’s rule-making process. Through this legislation, my goal is to help ensure that EMS is trained to identify the most severe cases of stroke in the field and then transport patients to “the right place at the right time,” even if it’s not necessarily the closest hospital. We already do this for trauma patients, so why not replicate the system for severe stroke patients?

When it comes to critically injured patients, EMS is well-trained to make sure these patients are transported to Level 1 trauma centers for the care they need to save their lives. We also have Level 1 stroke centers – facilities with the capacity to provide a life-saving procedure called neuroendovascular stroke surgery (also known as thrombectomy). The procedure, conducted by a highly-trained neurointerventional care team, uses catheters to quickly reopen blocked arteries in the brain.

Clinical trials demonstrate that 65 percent of stroke patients who were taken directly to a Level 1 stroke center live without a long-term disability. This translates into nearly $23,000 in medical costs saved over the lifetime of the patient after they’ve successfully recovered from a stroke.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that World Stroke Day immediately precedes National Family Caregivers Month, when we honor family caregivers across the country. This includes those who have made sacrifices such as leaving their jobs to care for a loved one full-time who was left paralyzed after surviving a stroke.

To achieve the best possible outcomes for patients, we need to ensure that our laws are aligned with the advancements made by modern medicine. This means continuing to work toward establishing a system of stroke care that empowers first responders to triage and then transport patients with severe strokes to the facilities best-equipped to treat them. Let’s continue the great progress our state has already made and ultimately save more lives.

Steven H. Cymbrowitz was elected in 2000 and represents the 45th Assembly District in Brooklyn as a full-time Assemblyman. His district includes portions of Sheepshead Bay, Midwood, Manhattan Beach, Gravesend and Brighton Beach.