Gary Beemer

Rapid access to the Stroke Prevention Clinic

The day after Gary Beemer’s appointment at the Stroke Prevention Clinic, he was planning to board a plane to Northwest Territories with his wife. They were looking forward to an active vacation of hiking, cycling and kayaking.

Warning signs

Rewind a few months earlier when Gary’s symptoms began. His blood pressure became really high. He experienced tingling in his hand and couldn’t type on his keyboard at work. He started to lose vision in his left eye. And, after a bike ride with friends, he began slurring his words. When Gary visited his family doctor, he was referred to the Stroke Prevention Clinic at Hamilton General Hospital. His appointment was scheduled for two days later, where an ultrasound revealed one of the 57-year-old’s arteries was virtually plugged.

Time is critical

There are two carotid arteries in the neck that supply blood to the brain – one on the right side and one on the left side. Gary was experiencing stroke-like symptoms because the artery on the right side of his neck was not allowing the blood to flow. “You could tell the whole place went into a panic zone when they saw the results of my ultrasound,” says Gary. After an ultrasound determines the carotid artery is the cause of the problem, there are two treatments available: medicine or surgery. “Gary’s case was very severe so we decided to pursue surgery,” says Dr. Kelvin Ng, General Internal Medicine and Stroke Physician at Hamilton Health Sciences. Needless to say, Gary’s vacation was cancelled and surgery was scheduled for the next day to correct the artery.

“Our fast-tracked Stroke Prevention Clinic model is quite unique in the country.”

Rapid access

The Stroke Prevention Clinic provides rapid access to experts, diagnostic tests, and treatments for minor, non-disabling strokes and Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIAs), also called “warning strokes” which was what Gary was experiencing. The clinic sees over 2,000 new patients each year, aiming to have them at their appointment within 24-48 hours of referral. Referrals are made through family doctors, specialists or the emergency department. “Time is critical. Ideally, we aim to get the ball rolling with all the investigations the same day and often give our patients results the same day. Our fast-tracked Stroke Prevention Clinic model is quite unique in the country,” says Dr. Ng. Patients with a blockage in the carotid artery are at a very high risk of stroke. Without treatment, Gary’s risk of a life-changing, disabling stroke was nearly 30%. Now, his risk of a stroke is less than 5% a year.

A tough year

“Gary was fortunate that he did not have permanent disability from a major stroke and did not require stroke rehabilitation for his transient symptoms,” says Dr. Ng. Most patients can expect to recover from this surgery within two weeks. What would have been a standard recovery for Gary become even harder. Just a week after surgery, his father-in-law passed away from cancer. A week after that, Gary’s own father passed away. After suffering two great losses and going through a tough year with his own health, Gary recovered well. He and his wife are finally taking that vacation to the Northwest Territories, almost a year to the date of his clinic appointment.

Time is of the essence when you suspect signs of stroke. Use the FAST criteria to determine if you or someone you know requires care as soon as possible:

F – FACE – Is it drooping?
A – ARMS – Can you raise them?
S – SPEECH – Is it slurred or jumbled?
T- TIME – Time to call 9-1-1 right away

Dr. Van Adel checks Stephanie's blood pressure

Stroke team saves two lives at once

When Stephanie was on the table in Dr. Brian Van Adel’s operating room, two lives were at stake. She was six months along with a baby girl, and was about to become the first patient at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) to have a clot retrieval procedure while pregnant. Not just the first in Hamilton, but one of the first in the world.

“I was just focused on getting Stephanie through this,” says Dr. Van Adel, a neurologist at Hamilton General Hospital (HGH). “I knew that if Stephanie was okay, the baby would be okay.”

“I was definitely in denial”

It was about 10:30 at night when Stephanie began to experience stroke symptoms as she got ready for bed. Her speech began to slur, and she drooled while brushing her teeth. The left side of her body became weak. The 35-year old didn’t know the signs of stroke, and brushed the symptoms off. Her partner, Reza, suggested they call 9-1-1, but she protested. He insisted, and they asked a neighbour to look after their 4-year old daughter while they waited for the ambulance.

“I was definitely in denial,” Stephanie recalls.

First responders spot stroke symptoms

Paramedics immediately identified her stroke symptoms and called ahead HGH, the regional stroke care provider for Hamilton and Niagara North West. This ensured the stroke team was ready when Stephanie arrived in the emergency department. Dr. Van Adel says that quick thinking made a big difference. When someone is suffering a stroke, millions of brain cells die each minute, so every second counts.

Stephanie was met in the emergency department by Dr. Van Adel along with Dr. Kelvin Ng. They agreed she was experiencing a stroke, likely as a result of a clot in her brain. Scans confirmed it. In most cases like Stephanie’s doctors use a special drug which dissolves the clot causing the stroke. However, the drug comes with a risk of excessive bleeding, which could be difficult to manage in a pregnant woman.

Surgery to remove the cause of the stroke while pregnant a first

The team decided Endovascular Therapy, more commonly known as EVT or clot retrieval, was Stephanie’s best option, although they had never performed it on someone having a stroke while pregnant before. The procedure involves inserting a tiny scope through an artery in the patient’s leg, and snaking it up to their brain. Then, they extract the clot with help from x-ray technology. It’s still a relatively novel treatment, and had only been performed on a handful of pregnant women in the world. But it was their best shot. Drs. Ng and Van Adel consulted with obstetrics at Hamilton Health Sciences’ McMaster University Medical Centre (MUMC) and they agreed the baby wouldn’t be at risk during the procedure.

Dr. Ng looks at Stephanie and Iris sitting on the exam table

Clot retrieval surgery requires the patient to lie very still while the scope is snaked through their artery and into their brain. Stephanie recalls being incredibly uncomfortable lying on her back. The dye used to illuminate her arteries was putting pressure on her eyes and she was in pain. “It was really intense,” she recalls. “But I still don’t think the seriousness of my situation had sunk in at that point.” Dr. Ng checked the baby’s heartbeat before and after the procedure, and an ICU doctor was on hand in case anything went wrong.

Dr. Van Adel successfully retrieved the clot from Stephanie’s brain. It was about the size of a grain of rice, and had been blocking blood flow to important parts of her brain. Because the team was able to retrieve it so quickly, Stephanie made a complete recovery.

If you suspect someone is having a stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Learn more about the signs of stroke in this short video.

“The last thing I remember from the room, was when Dr. Van Adel asked if I could give Dr. Ng a thumbs up with my left hand—the one that was paralyzed,” says Stephanie. “And I could.”

Stroke team meets the baby they saved

Three months after the clot retrieval procedure, Stephanie delivered healthy baby Iris at MUMC. Stephanie sees the team at HGH for regular checkups, and is doing very well. When she first brought the bright-eyed little girl in to meet the team who saved her life, there were few dry eyes in the room.

“It was emotional when the staff got to meet Iris,” she says. “It was very special. Because without them, things might have turned out very differently.”


Marilynne Adair crochets a scarf

Stroke survivor crochets for her health, and her community

A former Hamilton Health Sciences patient is turning her passion into productivity. Marilynne Adair’s crochet hobby has become a way for her to improve hand strength after a stroke, and give back to the community.

She experienced a stroke seven years ago. It caused serious weakness in her right arm. An avid crocheter, she set a rehabilitation goal of regaining her ability to crochet. To get even stitches, a crocheter must hold the yarn and needles with consistent tension. Practicing this skill helped Marilynn rebuild the strength and agility in her arm.

A reason for her rehab

When she learned about a project at Hamilton General Hospital (HGH) that provides warm, winter accessories to people in need, her hobby went into overdrive. HGH’s Mitten Fence is located in the hospital’s front courtyard. Donations of hats, mittens, and scarves are collected in bins around the hospital campus. They are then hung on the fence to be taken by people in need.

“Since we started this initiative three years ago, we’ve distributed hundreds of items to people in our community,” says Ann Higgins, senior consultant on improvement, innovation and alignment at HGH. “As an anchor organization in a high-needs area, we know how important it is to care for our neighbours beyond their medical needs. This is just one small way that we’re able to do that.”

“Anybody can benefit from it”

When asked about her crochet skills, Marilynne confidently shares that she is just as good as before her stroke. “Maybe even better,” she says. “I’m doing much more of it now.”

To date, she has donated more than 60 items to the mitten fence, an accomplishment she didn’t think possible in her early recovery. Jennifer Robinson, who was Marilynne’s physiotherapist at HHS’ Regional Rehabilitation Centre after her stroke, and is now clinical manager of the Stroke Rehabilitation Program, is proud to see her doing so well.

“She really set her mind to achieving this, and it’s wonderful to see her skill benefit people in need,” Jennifer says.

Still seeking donations

Donations of clean, new or gently used items are always needed. Donation bins are located outside the gift shop in Hamilton General Hospital, and the lobbies of the Regional Rehab Center, David Braley Research Institute, and Ron Joyce Children’s Centre.

Marilynne encourages people to give. “Anybody can benefit from it. It makes me feel good.”

A stroke survivor speaks with a patient in recovery in a hospital room.

Stroke survivor is here to listen

Lynn Gauthier suffered a stroke just a few years ago. It was a trying experience she hopes she’ll never encounter again.

She saw an opportunity, though, to help others in need. Using her experience as a stroke survivor, Lynn volunteers in Hamilton Health Sciences’ (HHS) stroke rehabilitation unit to talk to new survivors about their experience in recovery.

Through a partnership with March of Dimes Canada, Lynn spends a couple hours every week visiting with patients who recently suffered a stroke. The program is called Peers Fostering Hope.

“I ask them about their families and where they live, really try to get to know them,” says Lynn. “We talk about the pictures on the wall or what’s on TV.”

The introduction helps patients get more comfortable with Lynn and they look forward to those weekly conversations.

Peers Fostering Hope increases confidence

The Peers Fostering Hope program in Hamilton launched earlier this year. It was modelled after the Linking Survivors with Survivors program, which began 10 years ago in the Waterloo-Wellington region.

The goal is to enhance the patient experience while recovering from a major life event. It also helps patients feel less isolated by connecting with someone who’s been through a similar medical issue. Click To Tweet

“I think everyone wishes there was someone who can connect on their level after a medical event.”

An increase in confidence and the knowledge of survivors re-engaging in the community are big factors in a patient’s recovery.

Volunteers can also make referrals to staff based on their observations.

Though Lynn speaks highly of her care team while she recovered from her own stroke, she wishes there was someone who could connect with her the way she’s able to connect with new stroke survivors.

“I think everyone wishes there was someone who can connect on their level after a medical event,” says Lynn.

“Someone to tell you it’s okay to have a bad day, and that you need to allow your brain time to recover. I try to help them come to those terms.”

Former stroke patient now part of the team

Lynn believes her work is making a difference on the unit. Staff in the program agree.

“Engaging past persons with stroke to lend support to new persons with stroke builds our community capacity and raises us to new standards of excellence,” says Jennifer Robinson, clinical manager for the stroke rehabilitation unit at HHS’ Regional Rehabilitation Centre at Hamilton General Hospital.

“Having Lynn in the room helped him to see what life is like on the other side of recovery.”

“I thought this was something we should definitely make available to our patients.”

One patient, Jennifer says, envisioned his life outside the hospital for the first time.

“Having Lynn in the room helped him to see what life is like on the other side of recovery,” adds Jennifer. “I know she feels pride and satisfaction in what she’s doing for our patients. She’s a great addition to the team.”

“I am so happy I became a volunteer for stroke rehabilitation patients,” adds Lynn. “Meeting them all gives me such joy and has brought meaning to my life. I look forward to Wednesdays.”

More than 30 volunteers like Lynn involved in Peers Fostering Hope contributed over 2,500 hours last year at 21 hospitals. Click To Tweet

The partnership with March of Dimes Canada is also supported by the Dr. Ed & Bobby Yielding Fund, Ipsen Canada and the Central South Regional Stroke Network.


Andrew painting a pumpkin with a patient

Young patient volunteers in stroke rehab clinic

Andrew Mathieson’s heart defect had to be monitored each year.

He was born with a bicuspid aortic valve instead of a tricuspid valve, which means there are two leaflets of the aortic valve instead of three. This reduces blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. Doctor’s noticed Andrew’s aorta started to enlarge to the point of danger.

In December 2017 at 22 years old, Andrew underwent open heart surgery with Dr. Richard Whitlock at Hamilton General Hospital to repair the valve and the enlarged blood vessel.

Following the surgery, Andrew experienced a stroke which left him with loss of vision when looking to his right side and difficulty with concentration and memory.

Portrait of Andrew smiling

Andrew left the hospital near the end of January. Just six months after discharge, he wanted to give back. Through our Volunteer Resources program, Andrew began volunteering as a recreational therapist assistant in the Regional Rehabilitation Centre’s stroke rehab clinic where he received treatment.

“I’m helping out with the same nurses that helped me out. They all know me by name. They find it amazing I’m helping out at the same spot where I met them for rehab,” he says.

Andrew’s neurologist, Dr. Wes Oczkowski, says Andrew is taking his experience in stride.

“The biggest difference compared to most people with a stroke is that he’s only 22. That means his potential improvement – either with further recovery (healing), remediation (working on things to make them better) and the ability to compensate, all have the ability to be better than someone who is 72,” he says.

Part of Andrew’s weekly volunteer visit involves sharing his story with patients over hot chocolate.

“Seeing what I went through really makes them motivated. Every time I go out with them, they really light up,” he says.

They enjoy activities like playing Nintendo Wii bowling, abstract painting together, and even decorating pumpkins in time for Halloween.

Besides volunteering, Andrew runs six to seven kilometers daily to strengthen his heart and support his mental health. He is looking at different career options for his future.

“I hope my story can help connect with those who are going through a hard time and give them a little bit of support in the worst part of their life.”

Hamilton Paramedics showing the FAST decal on an ambulance

New ambulance decals will help create more stroke survivors

When someone has a stroke, every second counts. The ability to recognize the “FAST” signs of stroke and call 9-1-1 can mean the difference between life and death, or the difference between a full recovery and lasting disability.

To create more stroke survivors in our community, Hamilton Paramedic Service and Hamilton Health Sciences have partnered with the Heart and Stroke Foundation to help residents recognize the signs of stroke. To do this, Hamilton ambulances will display “FAST” decals to remind residents of the signs of stroke, and urge them to call 9-1-1 right away if stroke is suspected.

“FAST” stands for:

Face – is it drooping?

Arms – can you raise both?

Speech – is it slurred or jumbled?

Time – to call 9-1-1 right away!

“We want Hamiltonians to understand that when it comes to stroke, timing is critical. By recognizing stroke symptoms early, Hamilton’s trained paramedics and our local stroke team can provide you with the treatment and care you need sooner, which greatly improves your chances at a full recovery,” says Hamilton Paramedic Deputy Chief Russell Crocker.

“We want Hamiltonians to understand that when it comes to stroke, timing is critical.”

Hamilton General Hospital is the regional stroke centre for Central South Ontario. There, a specialized stroke team sees some of the most severe cases of stroke in our region. They know firsthand the potentially devastating impacts that delaying stroke can have on individuals and their loved ones.

“Knowing the signs of stroke could save your life, or the life of someone you love,” says Dr. Wes Oczkowski, stroke neurologist at HGH and medical director for the Central South Regional Stroke Network. “We hope this initiative will help create more stroke survivors in our community.”

In Hamilton, more than 1,000 people suffer from stroke each year. In 2017 and 2018, Hamilton Paramedic Service has transported approximately 1,397 suspected stroke cases. Of those cases, half were men and half were female, with the majority aged over 40 years.

“Knowing the signs of stroke could save your life, or the life of someone you love.”

Heart & Stroke Director of Ontario Mission, Karen Trainoff, is delighted to expand the reach of the FAST campaign through this partnership with Hamilton Paramedic Service and Hamilton Health Sciences.

“We know that public awareness increases in communities that have FAST decals on their vehicles. We are pleased to know that people will be reminded of the FAST signs of stroke every time they see a Region X ambulance,” says Ms.Trainoff. “Our objective is to ensure that all Canadians, no matter where they live or how old they are, know and remember the FAST signs of stroke.”

Stroke facts

  • A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function.
  • 62,000 strokes occur in Canada each year – that is one stroke every nine minutes.
  • 83 per cent of those who have a stroke and make it to hospital will now survive.
  • Brain cells die at a rate of 1.9 million per minute during stroke.
  • Each year, more than 13,000 Canadians die from stroke.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Canadians are living with the effects of stroke.
  • Stroke is a leading cause of acquired adult disability
  • Stroke can happen at any age. Stroke among people under 65 is increasing and stroke risk factors are increasing for young adults.
  • Half of Canadians report having a close friend or family member who survived a stroke.

For more information about the signs of stroke, visit

Lisa Fronzi, Sheila Price and Dr. Ng pose together

Stopping a stroke before it happens

Too young for a stroke?

Sheila Price works as a program secretary at Ron Joyce Children’s Health Centre (RJCHC). Every day, she walks past Hamilton General Hospital (HGH), home to the Stroke Prevention Clinic (SPC). The possibility of having a stroke never really crossed her mind—she was just 50, too young to be at risk, she thought.

Then she started to experience numbness and weakness. Her family encouraged her to visit her family doctor who immediately connected the dots between her symptoms. She suspected Sheila was experiencing transient ischemic attacks, also known as TIAs, or warning strokes. They are often followed by a full-blown stroke, especially if left untreated. Sheila’s family doctor referred her to the SPC.

“I’m really lucky she knew exactly what to do,” says Sheila. “Sending me to the Stroke Prevention Clinic was the right choice.”

The right team at the right time

A few years ago, the SPC completed an improvement process to significantly reduce its wait times for new patients. The average wait time went from 35 days to just three. Sheila was seen the very next day after her referral.

At that appointment, her family doctor’s suspicions were confirmed. Sheila had experienced two TIAs.

“Her carotid artery, the tube that sends blood to the brain, was blocked,” says Dr. Kelvin Ng, who treated Sheila in the SPC. “Clots from the carotid artery in her neck were travelling to her brain and eye and causing the TIAs.”

“She was fortunate she recognized the symptoms”

Dr. Ng says Sheila was lucky she, her family, and her family doctor took quick action.

“She was fortunate she recognized the symptoms of a TIA and got appropriate medical attention before she had a life changing stroke,” he says.

Sheila immediately underwent a series of tests, and was admitted to the inpatient stroke unit at HGH. HGH is the regional stroke centre for central south Ontario, and provides complete stroke care from prevention to rehabilitation. Dr. David Szalay performed surgery to clear the blockage in her artery June 8th—just four days after she visited her family doctor.

“It was amazing how fast it all happened,” Sheila says.

Making changes to prevent stroke in the future

Her surgery was a success, but her journey was far from over. Sheila continued to meet with the team at the SPC to reduce her risk of future TIAs and strokes.

“There are a number of factors that can affect risk of stroke, and we work with patients to manage them,” says Lisa Fronzi, clinical nurse specialist in the SPC.

Sheila was a smoker when she first visited the SPC. The team worked with her to create a plan for quitting, since smoking is the second leading risk factor for stroke. Sheila also started taking medication to manage her cholesterol and blood pressure, and the SPC team worked with her family doctor on ongoing diabetes management.

Sheila has been smoke-free since her stroke, her cholesterol is within normal range, and her blood sugar levels have gone down considerably. She was discharged from the SPC last month as a result of her progress.

“She has done remarkably well,” says Lisa. “She made numerous lifestyle changes which will significantly reduce her risk of future stroke.”

Both Sheila and her care team know that things could have gone very differently if she didn’t recognize her TIA symptoms. She says the experience was a wakeup call.

“I’m lucky to be here,” she says. “I’ve made some big changes in my life, and I’m looking forward to living a long and healthy life.”

Signs of stroke

If you suspect a TIA or stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately. Remember the signs of stroke:

F – FACE – Is it drooping?
A – ARMS – Can you raise them?
S – SPEECH – Is it slurred or jumbled?
T- TIME – Time to call 9-1-1 right away

A former Toronto Argos cheerleader performs a dance routine with her physiotherapist

Former Argos cheerleader gets stroke treatment behind enemy lines

When the hometown Hamilton Tiger-Cats added another Labour Day Classic win to their tally this past weekend, a former cheerleader for their arch rival may have cracked a small smile.

Tracey Taylor used to cheer for the Toronto Argonauts, Hamilton’s rival team. She was admitted to Hamilton Health Sciences’ Regional Rehabilitation Centre for stroke treatment earlier this summer.

Though she was discharged in July, she left a lasting impression on her care team during her stay.

“The first day I met Tracey she had a very positive energy, and she was really motivated to work on her goals,” says Julie d’Entremont, a physiotherapist in the rehab centre’s stroke unit. “She told me she used to be a cheerleader so it gave me an idea.”

“We want patients to return to the activities they enjoy.”

Julie, a long-time dancer herself, choreographed a routine for Tracey that would enable her to reach her goals. It also inspired many fellow patients.

“As a team we work to make the patient experience enjoyable and meaningful,” says Julie. “We want to return them to the activities they enjoy and to have them become independent with their mobility again.”

Earlier this year, the stroke program helped a patient reach his goal of walking his daughter down the aisle for her wedding.

Stroke happened after family vacation

When Tracey came home from a trip to Cuba, she soon felt uncomfortable tightness with her body going numb. Her son knew something was wrong and took her to Hamilton General Hospital right away.

She was experiencing the first signs of stroke.

Almost as soon as she got to the rehab centre, she was determined to recover quickly.

“As soon as I got in that wheelchair, I asked my care team what do I have to do to get out of here,” says Tracey. “I’m going to dance my way out of here if I have to.”

And she did.

“That first meeting, we talked about working toward doing a small dance together,” says Julie. “I have always loved to dance and in my role as a physiotherapist, I help people move again. The two passions go hand in hand.

“With Tracey, her passion for dancing is the same as mine. We were fortunate to work on her mobility partly through an activity that we both really enjoy, and was a big part of her life.”

Tracey was on board immediately. “I said, ‘Okay, let’s do this!’”

Julie supplied pom-poms and the proper uniforms for her and Tracey to wear.

“I danced my way out of here.”

Cheerleading once again

Near the end of her rehab, Tracey and Julie got up in front of patients, staff and family members in the therapy gym and performed their routine together.

Tracey looks back fondly at her days as one of the top cheerleaders for a strong Argos team that featured Doug Flutie and Pinball Clemons.

With her performance, Tracey hopes she inspired a few of her fellow patients too.

“I feel like I got a second chance. That’s why I did this.

“I danced my way out of here.”

researcher analyzing a brain scan after a stroke

Creating a world without stroke

For decades, our teams have been tackling stroke head-on. Their discoveries have set the compass for how we treat and prevent stroke worldwide.

Cutting stroke in half

Can you imagine a world without stroke? Dr. Jackie Bosch can, and she’s leading a mission to make that vision a reality.

While research has made great strides in finding new and better ways to treat stroke, prevention is even more important. Dr. Bosch has led worldwide studies showing that certain safe, inexpensive, easily accessible medications (e.g. blood pressure-lowering and cholesterol-lowering drugs) are better at reducing the risk of stroke than previously believed. Together, these medications have the potential to prevent 50 per cent of all strokes, which equates to tens of thousands of lives saved each year.

Stopping stroke in its tracks, sooner

When a stroke happens, millions of brain cells die with each minute that passes. In other words, the quicker a person receives emergency treatment, the less likely they are to suffer severe, potentially disabling brain damage. In recent years, the discovery of clot-busting drugs and special clot removal procedures have benefited countless patients by limiting the effects of stroke once it happens, but their effectiveness depends on how quickly the person receives treatment. Dr. Michael Sharma and his team are testing new drugs that act even faster and more effectively against a stroke to limit progression, giving more stroke victims a chance at life and, for many, a full recovery.

Treating the worst strokes, better

Strokes are devastating, but some are worse than others. Hemorrhagic strokes, which happen when blood vessels rupture and cause bleeding in the brain, are more likely to lead to death and severe disability, yet fewer researchers have ventured into understanding them. Dr. Ashkan Shoamanesh is one of those few, and he leads a Canada-wide research group aimed at exploring how to prevent hemorrhagic strokes and to better treat people who suffer from them.

HHS & McMaster researchers find “simple” methods to prevent heart attack & stroke

Three simple methods to prevent heart attack and stroke have been proven by an international team led by Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) and McMaster University researchers.

The research team, based at the Population Health Research Institute of HHS and McMaster, studied more than 12,000 patients from 21 countries to evaluate drugs that can prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD), which cause 18 million deaths and about 50 million heart attacks and strokes around the world each year.

“These are incredibly important findings with potential for significant global impact,” says Dr. Salim Yusuf, principal investigator and executive director of PHRI. “If just 10 per cent of the world’s population at intermediate risk of CVD is impacted, we’re talking about 20 to 30 million people who could be helped by these drugs.”

The study, “HOPE-3”, examined three methods using two forms of therapy: Statins, a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs, and antihypertensives, a class of drugs used to treat high blood pressure. In addition, a combination of statins and antihypertensives was reviewed.

Statins proved to significantly and safely reduce CVD events by 25 per cent in patients at intermediate risk without CVD. Antihypertensives did not reduce major CVD events overall in the population studied, but did reduce such events in the group of people with hypertension, but not in those without hypertension. When combined, statins and antihypertensives reduced CVD events by 30 per cent—with a 40 per cent benefit in those with hypertension, suggesting that patients with hypertension should not only lower their BP but also consider taking a statin.

“These simple methods can be used practically everywhere in the world, and the drugs will become even cheaper as more and more systems and people adopt these therapies,” he said.


This article is featured in the latest Explorers publication.

Woman to woman: Don’t ignore the signs of stroke

When Laurie Herron-Weber realized she was having a stroke, she knew what to do, and her quick action saved her life.

It was March 19, 2018 when Laurie started to feel off. Her speech was slurred, and she was losing strength on her right side. She didn’t know it at the time, but her face was drooping, too. All classic stroke symptoms, and Laurie knew the signs. Her mother had suffered a serious stroke decades before. Knowing time was of the essence, and she picked up the phone right away.

“I called my son and said, ‘Something’s going on – I think I’m having a stroke,’” says Laurie.

At Hamilton General Hospital, the regional stroke centre, emergency stroke teams determined that Laurie was a prime candidate for two life-saving treatments: the first, a drug called “tPA” that helps dissolve the blood clot causing the stroke; the second, a special surgical procedure called “clot retrieval” that actually removes the clot from the brain altogether. Together, these treatments can dramatically reduce a person’s risk of suffering serious and long-term effects of a stroke, including death, but they’re only effective if given within a short timeframe of the stroke occurring.

Within minutes of being treated, with her son by her side, Laurie began to regain her speech and the use of her right side. That was Monday. By Friday, she was back at home recovering with the support of her family and friends.

“Something’s going on – I think I’m having a stroke.”

“Thanks to the prompt action of Laurie and her son, we were successful in pulling out a clot from a blood vessel in Laurie’s brain which led to a dramatic improvement and restoration of her function,” says Dr. Kelvin Ng, Laurie’s stroke doctor who she said was with her “every step of the way”.

“The whole team was incredible,” says Laurie. “They were focused, energetic, and the whole time I was in the hospital I really felt that they cared and were working hard to help me.”

“It really is the place to be.”

Three months after her stroke, Laurie is feeling good and is focused on making changes to her health. She’s working with her doctors to keep her blood pressure down, and she’s already lost 27 pounds with the goal to lose more. She says the stroke helped her realize the importance of prioritizing her health.

“As women, we put ourselves off for the sake of others,” she says. “We don’t want to ask for help because we’re worried that we’re wasting someone’s time.”

“You have to remember that YOU are important, too. Your health is important. If you ever think you’re having a stroke, don’t wait – call 9-1-1 right away.”

If you think you’re having a stroke, call 9-1-1 right away. To learn about the signs and symptoms of stroke, click here.


graphic of a stroke occurring in the brain

React “FAST” to the signs of stroke

Strokes can happen to anyone, at any age. In Canada, someone has a stroke every nine minutes. A stroke occurs suddenly and, often, without warning.

A stroke happens when there’s a problem with the blood supply to the brain. There are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. An ischemic  stroke is caused by the blockage of blood flow to an artery in the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke is caused by the bursting of a blood vessel in the brain. Brain cells can be damaged or die. This damage can have different effects depending on where it happens in the brain.

Stroke signs to look out for

If you think you or someone around you is having a stroke, it’s important to act quickly to improve the chances of recovery. The “FAST” acronym is an easy and memorable way to remember the major signs of stroke.

FAST stands for:

F – FACE – Is it drooping?

A – ARMS – Can you raise them?

S – SPEECH – Is it slurred or jumbled?

T- TIME  – Time to call 9-1-1 right away

VIDEO: Dr. James Sahlas, stroke neurologist at Hamilton Health Sciences, demonstrate the “FAST” signs.

Seek medical attention immediately

Stroke is treatable. Even if stroke symptoms are temporary, it’s crucial to take action and seek immediate medical attention. You may have experienced a temporary blockage of blood flow to the brain called a “transient ischemic attack” (TIA). A TIA is a serious warning sign that a stroke may occur. If you have experienced a TIA, you should be referred to an outpatient stroke prevention clinic  for early assessment, education and follow-up in order to prevent a stroke or another TIA.

Recognize the signs of stroke and act quickly by calling 9-1-1. “Time is Brain”: the sooner a stroke can be treated, the better the chances for a good recovery!

In the Central South Ontario region, Hamilton General Hospital is the designated Regional Stroke Centre. To learn more, visit

Related Stroke Stories:

When a first responder needs help

HHS is top performer for lifesaving stroke treatment

HHS researchers score significant funding to explore stroke prevention

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Hamilton General Hospital becomes Regional Stroke Centre

Regional Stroke Centre improves access to stroke care in Central South Ontario

By: Teresa Smith, Vice President, Adult Regional Care, Hamilton Health Sciences

Winnie Doyle, Executive Vice President, Clinical Services, Mental Health and Addictions and Chief Nursing Executive, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton

Specialization of stroke care at Hamilton General Hospital

Last year, over 1,000 people in our community experienced a stroke.

It can be terrifying. You may lose strength in one side of your body. You may have trouble speaking. Your face will often start to droop, among other signs of stroke. When a stroke happens, timely access to safe, quality best-practice care is critical to survival and recovery.  Everyone in our region deserves this access.

A greater chance of being alive and living at home in the year following a stroke

Across the city, we are fortunate that Hamilton Health Sciences and St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton are centres of excellence, which, until recently, have shared responsibility to provide care for patients experiencing stroke. As of this month, all stroke care is now provided at the Hamilton General Hospital – the Regional Stroke Centre.

The reason for this is simple: evidence shows that patients who are treated on a designated stroke unit achieve better outcomes. This means a greater chance of being alive and living at home in the year following a stroke.

The Hamilton General has a designated stroke unit staffed by a team of doctors and health care providers from a range of related specialties. These doctors, nurses and other care professionals primarily treat stroke patients and have expertise gained through specialization. The more patients they see, the more they understand about this disease.

The site is also home to our region’s rehabilitation centre, which helps patients recover during and beyond their stay in hospital.

The Hamilton General’s record speaks for itself. For example, in the most urgent stroke cases, it has the fastest time in Ontario for patients to receive clot-busting medication. Considering that up to 1.9 million brain cells die each minute a stroke is untreated, this is essential.

The Hamilton General is also the regional stroke endovascular therapy centre serving 2.2 million residents – one of only six Ontario hospitals to offer this treatment. This innovative and life-saving approach removes the blood clot from the brain, reducing the impact of the stroke.

This is not the first time our hospitals have come together to centralize the delivery of care to improve patient outcomes. Rather it’s the next phase in a long history of collaboration. Think of adult mental health and kidney care at St. Joseph’s Healthcare, or pediatric and cardiac treatment at Hamilton Health Sciences.

In modern health care, specialization is the best approach. We know that our integration of stroke care will help continue on this legacy of working together to improve our community’s health.