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Jim McIngvale Funds Nation’s First Mobile Stroke Unit

Gallery Furniture founder provides gift to fund life-saving technology at the University of Texas Health Science Center.

UT Health, Nation's First Mobile Stroke Unit

The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, in partnership with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, now boasts the nation’s first Mobile Stroke Unit, funded in part by Gallery Furniture’s Jim “Mack” McIngvale.

The ambulance features a computed tomography (CT) scanner that allows a mobile stroke unit team member to quickly assess whether a patient is having a stroke caused by a blood clot. If so, the clot-buster tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) can be administered. This is the only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic stroke, and the earlier it is given the greater its effect.

On June 4, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School, in partnership with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC), announced that the UTHealth Mobile Stroke Unit has successfully transported and helped save the life of its very first patient. The patient is 30-year old female who was experiencing one of the rarest and most fatal types of stroke, a basilar artery occlusion, which means the blood clot was blocking an artery that provides blood to the brain stem. Mobile Stroke Unit Vehicle - Equipped with Computed Tomography (CT) Scanner

Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is interrupted by a blockage or a rupture in an artery, depriving brain tissue of oxygen. It is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States and a leading cause of disability. According to the American Stroke Association and the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke each year – one every 40 seconds – and stroke costs the United States $38 billion a year.

“It typically takes roughly an hour once a stroke patient arrives in the emergency room to receive treatment. So if we can actually put the emergency room in the ambulance and take the CT scanner to the patient, we could treat the patient at the scene with the medication and save that hour,” said James C. Grotta, M.D., director of stroke research in the Clinical Institute for Research & Innovation at Memorial Hermann-TMC and director of the mobile stroke unit consortium that will also include the stroke teams from Houston Methodist Hospital and St. Luke’s Medical Center, local businesses and philanthropists. “That hour could mean saving 120 million brain cells.” In the case of the mobile stroke unit's first patient, she was treated approximately 78 minutes after she first felt sick. According to Grotta, fewer than 1% of stroke victims are treated that quickly. In this release from UT Health and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, the patient relates her amazement at being able to walk and speak the same day she experienced a life-threatening stroke.

Dr. Grotta has treated Mr. McIngvale for mini-stroke in the past. Grotta advocated the launch of a mobile stroke unit in Houston after being inspired by a similar unit in use in Germany. The vehicle was engineered from the ground up by Frazer Ltd. (, a third-generation, family-run Houston company that builds emergency vehicles.

“I’m thrilled to hear of the positive outcome for the first stroke unit patient and hope that we will see many more of these outcomes as the team continues its groundbreaking work. This is a priceless and lifesaving service Dr. Grotta and his team are providing the Houston community and it was an honor to be able to contribute to such a cause that is so close to my heart,” Mr. McIngvale said after learning of the event.

“The mobile stroke unit is one example of how UTHealth is advancing stroke treatment,” said Elizabeth Noser, M.D., co-principal investigator of the UTHealth trial that will measure outcomes and cost savings. “We anticipate that the decrease in stroke treatment time will translate to improved outcomes.” Noser is clinical assistant professor of neurology and the James C. Grotta, M.D. Chair in Neurological Recovery and Stroke at UTHealth.

The stroke unit will be located at The University of Texas Professional Building in the Texas Medical Center. It will carry a paramedic, neurologist, nurse and CT technician and run alternate weeks as part of a clinical trial at UTHealth.

(Images by Frazer, Ltd., All Rights Reserved.)