University of Colorado Hospital’s new mobile stroke treatment unit is already cutting down the time it takes patients to get treatment.

“We know that every minute without oxygen to areas of the brain, billions of cells are lost in the brain,” said Dr. Sharon Poisson, vascular neurologist and co-medical director of the hospital’s stroke program.

The specialized ambulance, one of five in the world, allows first responders to give a CT scan in the vehicle. A doctor, who examines the patient via video from the hospital, reads the scan and can then tell paramedics to administer TPA, a clot-busting drug.

“A stroke is what happens when a blood clot clogs up an artery inside the brain and keeps part of the brain from getting enough oxygen,” Poisson said. “The biggest challenge is that we don’t see people early enough to give that medicine.”

One of UCHealth’s most recent stroke patients, Lee Hanson, 75, believes the mobile unit may have saved his life, but definitely prevented significant post-stroke consequences.

“I know I am not the man I used to be but I am a lot better off than I anticipated I would be,” Hanson said.

His son, Greg, noticed the symptoms one morning several weeks ago.

“The best way I could describe it was the right side of the brain wasn’t communicating with the left side of the brain,” Greg said.

He noticed the tell-tale signs known as FAST. That's Facial drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulties and perhaps most critical, time. From symptom recognition to blood clot removal, the process took just two and a half hours.

“I think thankful is hardly the word to describe my gratitude,” Hanson said.

He’s not just referring to the staff at UCHealth and the treatment unit, but his son, who knew something wasn’t right.

“We know that for every half-hour delay in treating a stroke there’s a ten percent decrease in the level of somebody’s functioning after a stroke,” Dr. Poisson said.