In February, Randi and Johnny Carrabba – of Houston’s original, family-owned Carrabba’s restaurant – generously hosted more than 50 guests to learn about the nation’s first Mobile Stroke Unit (MSU), a research program spearheaded by a partnership between Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC) and McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. Introduced in 2014 under the direction of James Grotta, MD, director of stroke research in the Clinical Institute for Research & Innovation at Memorial Hermann-TMC and director of the mobile stroke unit consortium, the MSU is the first specialized ambulance for prehospital stroke treatment in the United States. It provides all diagnostic tools, including a CT scanner and stroke expertise that result in therapeutic treatment at the site of emergency, and if it is determined that a patient is having a stroke caused by a blood clot, the clot-busting drug tPA also can be administered onboard.
Randi and Johnny’s cousin, Joe Carrabba, was treated on the MSU after experiencing stroke-like symptoms in his home at the age of 59. Due to the unit’s ability to treat stroke patients within the first “golden hour” after the onset of symptoms, Carrabba recovered with no residual physical or speech deficits and was discharged from Memorial Hermann Mischer Neuroscience Institute at the Texas Medical Center three days after his stroke. Carrabba shared his profound appreciation for the MSU at the event stating, “My wife, Donna, knew something was wrong and immediately called 911. I owe my life to my wife, the fast response of EMS and Dr. Grotta’s vision for the MSU. I would not be standing here talking to you tonight if it were not for them.”
Guests were able to see the MSU at the event. “It typically takes an hour once a stroke patient arrives in the emergency room to receive treatment, and that's not counting transport time. In these situations, every minute – every second – counts, so the earlier the clinical team can intervene, the better the outcome,” Dr. Grotta told guests.
According to Dr. Grotta, this innovative model for delivering acute stroke treatment is advancing stroke care within the Greater Houston area and has the potential for broad impact across the nation. If patients can be evaluated, imaged and treated before they are transported via ambulance to an emergency department, critical time can be saved. He says this vital step almost doubles the odds of a patient being discharged directly home after their stroke. The research team expects that patients treated on the MSU will have fewer long-term disabilities, providing them with a better quality of life and potentially reducing overall healthcare costs.
David Persse, M.D., City of Houston EMS Medical Director, said, “The MSU makes it possible for the team to treat stroke patients quickly, swiftly and effectively.” The MSU is operated in conjunction with EMS of Houston, Bellaire and West University Fire Departments.
This year, the team will embark on Phase II of the research trial. “Philanthropic assistance is needed to support this next phase which includes a second unit and expanded hours of operation. The groundbreaking project, which celebrates its two-year anniversary this month, has great promise to dramatically improve stroke outcomes and impact countless lives,” said Grotta.
Guests in attendance included: Whitney and Matt Gordon, Bob Graham, Janice and John Griffin, Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale and his daughter Elizabeth McIngvale-Cegelski, Paula Mischer, Diane Lokey Farb, Laura Griffin Richardson, Jim Postl, Annette and George Strake, Carla and Steve Strake, and Ileana Treviño, Memorial Hermann Foundation Executive Vice President and CEO.