Published on May 23, 2022

Neurologist Promotes Stroke Awareness, Response During Stroke Month

Faith Fuentes, M.D.

Faith Fuentes, M.D., a neuro-hospitalist and medical director for the stroke program at MyMichigan Health, is passionate about sharing her knowledge with community members regarding warning signs of stroke, the need to act quickly and reducing your risk factors.

Faith Fuentes, M.D., is a neuro-hospitalist and medical director for the stroke program at MyMichigan Health. With more than 40 years of experience in neurology, she and her stroke team have helped develop and lead MyMichigan’s program which continues to improve and expand stroke treatments across their service areas. May is Stroke Awareness Month, and Dr. Fuentes is passionate about sharing her knowledge with community members regarding warning signs of stroke, the need to act quickly and reducing your risk factors.

“One very important thing our community members can do to help us achieve good outcomes is to call 911 immediately if they or a loved one are experiencing stroke symptoms,” said Dr. Fuentes. “Too often, people take a ‘wait and see’ approach, hoping their symptoms will simply go away. This can have devastating and irreversible effects. Don’t wait, and do not try to drive to the hospital. Strokes can progress quickly, and our goal is to save as much brain tissue as possible. EMS professionals are trained to help mitigate damage and alert staff in the ED to prepare for a stroke patient’s arrival. In fact, studies have shown that when stroke patients arrive by ambulance, they get faster evaluation, a higher level of care and better outcomes1. Every second counts, so please use emergency medical services.”

The term BEFAST is designed to help remember and recognize the warning signs of a stroke:

  • Balance - Sudden loss of balance or coordination
  • Eyes - Sudden vision loss or changes in vision
  • Face - Uneven smile, weakness on one side of the face
  • Arm - Sudden weakness in one arm or leg
  • Speech - Slurred or confused speech, difficulty speaking
  • Time - Dial 911 right away

Some patients who suffer a stroke have some type of disability as a result. MyMichigan offers specialized stroke rehabilitation to help patients overcome the physical, mental and emotional impacts and regain their independence.

“When I began practicing, CT scans and MRIs were not widely available. I have seen many advances in neurology and medicine in general through the years,” said Dr. Fuentes. “Developments in technology and medications have enabled us to evaluate and help lessen disabilities in patients caused by stroke and other neurological diseases. Patients working with our specialized rehabilitation staff helps them rebound. It is very exciting to see.”

“We are building a comprehensive stroke center on the Midland campus by continuing to expand our capabilities,” added Dr. Fuentes. “For example, we’ve recently added a neuro-interventionalist who performs minimally invasive, life-saving procedures such as clot retrieval in stroke patients or embolizing a brain aneurysm right here in Midland. These procedures once were not even possible let alone available locally. We also have a dedicated team of neuro-hospitalists to provide specialized care for inpatients with neurological conditions, including those recovering from stoke. As a result of our efforts, our program has been certified as a primary stroke center by HFAP, the nation’s original independent, accreditation program. This assures our communities that our institution implements best practices for care of a stroke patient.”

Dr. Fuentes explained that other MyMichigan member locations are also benefitting from advances in stroke treatments and protocols. MyMichigan partners with Michigan Medicine’s stroke team in Ann Arbor through telehealth services that connect specialists to rural medical centers such as Alpena and Alma. Consulting with team members remotely saves time and, if travel is required for more specialized care, initial treatments can be administered prior to and during the journey. MyMichigan’s Emergency Departments also follow standardized processes set by the American Hospital Association that have led to more accurate evaluation and improved outcomes.

It’s also important to reduce one’s risk factors for stroke, shared Dr. Fuentes. Some factors that increase your risk for stroke -- such as age, gender, race or family history – are out of your control. However, you can reduce your risk of stroke by working with your doctor to bring these factors under control:

  • high blood pressure
  • high blood cholesterol levels
  • heart disease
  • smoking, heavy drinking
  • diabetes

“Over the years, neurosciences have established aggressive treatments for stroke patients. We have developed complex and sophisticated diagnostic and surgical tools,” said Dr. Fuentes. “But quitting smoking, controlling blood pressure and actively managing your health can help improve your chances of avoiding a stroke from occurring or doing lasting damage. We hope that residents in all our services areas will be our partners in creating healthy communities together by making their health a priority and being aware of the symptoms and risk factors of strokes.”

Those who would like to learn more about MidMichigan’s options for care and treatment of stroke may visit mymichigan.org/stroke or contact Dr. Fuentes, stroke program director, and Tammy Albrecht, M.S.N., R.N., neuroscience services manager, via email at stroke@midmichigan.org.

1Mode of Arrival to the Emergency Department of Stroke Patients in the United States, Journal of Vasc Interventional Neurolology, 2008 Jul; 1(3): 83–86.