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Meg Farris / Eyewitness News
Email: mfarris@wwltv.com | Twitter: @megfarriswwl

NEW ORLEANS The south is called the 'stroke belt'andaround southeast Louisiana,'the buckle.'

High blood pressure,diabetes,diet and exerciseall play a role in the local high death rate from stroke.

But now a first-of-its-kind program for people inJefferson and St.Tammany parishescould help.

For years,BarryFoulon has entertained French Quarter diners at Arnaud's, playing the banjo in a quartet. Butthree months ago, the music stopped.

'WhenI gotup from the couch,I went to stand up and fell right here because my leg, left leg wasn't working,'Foulon recalled of thatscary moment.

His left arm and speech stopped working, too.

'A doctor was asking me, 'What year is it?' and 'Who is the President?' and that's whenI got a little worried,'Foulon said about his time in theemergency room.

But Foulon can keep playing his banjo today because he got to theOchsnerER immediately to treat his stroke.And with rehab, he now is back home.

Nowthere's a new focus.

'When you've had your stroke and you end up at home, you're still at very high risk of still having a death as a result of that, but also a recurrent stroke,' explained Dr. Ken Gaines, anOchsner neurologist and director of theOchsner Neuroscience Institute.

Dr. Gaines was the first in the country to get a $7 millionU.S.grant to devise and execute an innovative program called Stroke Mobile.

People such as Foulon will get a year of in-home follow-up care with a specially trained nurse to teach the entire family about the major difference diet andexercise can make,to ensure they are taking the right dose of medications andto recognize a health problem before it gets bad.

'A lot of people are walkingthat border ofhaving a stroke and they just don't realize it,' said Tony Batiquin, the lead nurse in theOchsner Stroke Mobile program. 'You know, it's silent.Hypertension is thepastime for NewOrleans. Hypertension (high blood pressure)is incredible, the high sugar, fried food.

Batiquin likes the opportunity to be more effective by teaching patients one-on-one.

'Actually, information that just came out in the last week or so, thatMediterranean type diet does a lot to improve your stroke risk,' Dr. Gaines said. 'That's not quite the diet ofLouisianaI don't think.'

Nearly a dozen new jobs will help monitor potential red flags.People in a designated area of the hospital, calledstroke central, can coordinate care andcommunication with all the medical teams.

It'slike a 24-hour hotline with telecommunication to patients.Nurses will help withquitting smoking and weight loss, two major contributors to strokes.

ForFoulon, it's a second chance.

'Yeah, when you come that close, you know, truly, one day at a time now, you know.And every day is good,' Foulonsaid about living life to its fullest and appreciating every day.

Dr. Gaines said 85 percent of stroke patients have complications afterwards and that is whatthe Stroke Mobile team is trying to prevent.

Batiquin said people are enthusiastic about starting a good diet and exercising program right after having a stroke but then slack off.He hopes to change that.

This program is for people who live in Jefferson Parish or St. Tammany Parish who end up atOchsner after having a stroke.

For more: www.ochsner.org/stroke or call 504-842-3980.

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