In an Emergency


Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and according to the National Institutes of Health, there are approximately 795,000 stroke events in the U.S. each year. A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted, this leads to brain damage and sometimes death.

In the event of a stroke, it is a matter of seconds that can make a difference between life and death. According to the CDC, in one second, 32,000 brain cells can die, and in one minute, a stroke can kill up to 1.9 million brain cells.

Identifying the symptoms and acting fast by calling 911 is important. The Rio Grande Valley can count on South Texas Health Systems to handle stroke cases. Patients can visit STHS’ 10 emergency rooms, including its six freestanding emergency departments that have been certified as Acute Stroke Ready facilities by The Joint Commission. These freestanding facilities are capable of stabilizing patients having a stroke and transferring them for treatment to STHS’ Comprehensive Stroke Center at STHS McAllen.

“STHS McAllen is a DNV-GL Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center designated Level 1 Facility,” said BSN, RN SCRN, STHS Stroke Program Manager, Alejandra Ayala.

“This means our facility meets the standardized stroke guidelines set forth by the Brain Attack Coalition, American Heart Association, and American Stroke Association.”

The comprehensive stroke center offers a range of treatments and care for stroke patients, including emergency treatment, diagnosis, and managing stroke complications. This center provides the Rio Grande Valley access to stroke treatment locally and not have to travel outside of the region to receive advanced care. Identifying stroke symptoms is critical to stroke treatment.

“Our goal is to bring stroke awareness to our community because seconds matter between life or having long-term disabling effects or even death,” said Ayala.

“We only have a short treatment window, therefore urging the community to call 911 immediately when they notice stroke symptoms.”

Ayala provided a simple acronym that is widely used to identify symptoms.


Balance is affected. A person may fall or feel unsteady.

Eyes are blurry or the patient has difficulty seeing.

Face droops when asked to smile.

Arm weakness when a person raises their arm above their head.

Speech is slurred.

Time is important. If you notice symptoms, call 911.

“The best way to prevent a stroke is knowing risk factors,” said Ayala.

Those risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, high cholesterol, alcohol consumption, and obesity.

The STHS Comprehensive Stroke Center ensures that patients receive post-stroke care and the best quality treatment for recovery. There are many forms of treatments offered to patients based on the type of stroke or treatment required.

“Endovascular stroke treatment is a less invasive stroke treatment used to treat problems affecting blood vessels, such as a clotted vessel in an acute ischemic stroke,” said Ayala.

“Advantages in receiving endovascular treatment include shorter recovery period and less discomfort.”

Strokes are a leading cause of long-term disability and death. The importance of identifying the symptoms and seeking immediate care is critical. STHS Comprehensive Stroke Center has a team of healthcare professionals who work together to provide the best possible care to their stroke patients.

“No matter which STHS facility they enter, they will be provided the best standardized stroke care from the emergency department to critical care, all the way to their recovery in our rehab,” Ayala said.