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Editorial: Campaign will fund much-needed stroke care program

 

Every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a stroke, and every four minutes someone dies of a stroke, according to a 2017 report by the American Heart Association.

Time is of the essence to prevent death and disability from stroke. The sooner medical care is administered, the higher the chance of minimal harm.

But, as of today, if you have a stroke in Pleasanton, there is a good chance the ambulance will take you right past Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare to San Ramon, Walnut Creek or another community with a certified stroke center.

So Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare is partnering with Stanford Neurology to develop a stroke program here.

"A stroke center at Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare is important because timely care is critical when treating a stroke patient," said Dr. David Svec, chief medical officer at Stanford-ValleyCare. "We want to serve our neighbors better by providing access to high-quality stroke care close to home."

"That's why we're raising $1 million to bring a comprehensive stroke program to our community hospital," said Shaké Sulikyan, executive director of ValleyCare Charitable Foundation.

She added that $1 million isn't a large amount for a project like this, "considering that a new MRI machine can cost between $2 million to $3 million."

The foundation has launched the "Campaign for Stroke Care" to raise $1 million to fund equipment, specially trained staff, rehabilitation and education programs and the like.

"We can bring around-the-clock lifesaving services to our community," Sulikyan said.

While affiliated with Stanford Health, ValleyCare, which has served the community for 60 years, is still a separate entity and must fund new services. So the ValleyCare Charitable Foundation is calling on the community for its financial support of the stroke care project.

"Three years ago, we joined forces with Stanford Health Care to bring access to Stanford physicians and services close to home," Sulikyan said. "Stanford has made significant investments in our community hospital, including capital improvements and the implementation of our new electronic medical record system -- a tremendous lift for ValleyCare that we wouldn't have been able to undertake on our own."

"Yet it is important to remember that ValleyCare remains a separate entity, with its own balance sheet and operations," she explained. "With ever-shrinking hospital margins, philanthropy is the primary way nonprofit hospitals can launch new services and programs in today's healthcare landscape."

The campaign got a jumpstart when longtime Livermore residents Lynn and Joan Seppala presented a gift of $100,000 and a matching challenge to encourage others to support the cause: For every two dollars someone donates, the Seppalas will donate one dollar, up to $150,000.

The Seppalas know first-hand the importance of immediate care for stroke patients and follow-up therapy and services.

When Lynn was 46, working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory as chief optical designer for the National Ignition Fusion (NIF) project, he suffered a stroke that left his right arm and leg paralyzed, his speech slurred and his memory affected. Through determination -- and speech and physical therapy rehabilitation nearly 30 miles away, often multiple times a week for a year -- Lynn was able to return to the lab.

According to the story in the Livermore Independent newspaper, which the Seppalas own, Lynn is "reliving that painfully difficult period as he helps to launch the Campaign for Stroke Care at Stanford Health Care-ValleyCare that would provide critical lifesaving care for the Tri-Valley community."

"Every minute matters and being able to provide this level of stroke care at ValleyCare will be extremely valuable to the Tri-Valley community," said Scott Gregerson, president of Stanford-ValleyCare. "We are grateful to the Seppalas for helping to launch this campaign, and we appreciate the support that they and the rest of the community give to ValleyCare."

The Weekly and the Independent are competitors to an extent, but both have the same mission and goal as small, local newspapers -- to effect positive change in the communities we serve.

We thank the Seppalas for their generosity, but also for their willingness to be open about a traumatic and frightening experience to inspire others.

For more information about the Campaign for Stroke Care or the Seppalas' matching funds offer, visit valleycare.com/stroke or contact the ValleyCare Charitable Foundation at 373-4560 or vccharitable@stanfordhealthcare.org.

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Nominations due by Sept. 16

Pleasanton Weekly and DanvilleSanRamon.com are once again putting out a call for nominations and sponsorships for the annual Tri-Valley Heroes awards - our salute to the community members dedicated to bettering the Tri-Valley and the lives of its residents.

Nomination form