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When someone is having a stroke, receiving the right care, right away can make all the difference in survival and quality of life. 


A stroke, or brain attack, happens when blood flow to your brain is stopped. It is an emergency situation. The brain needs a constant supply of oxygen and nutrients in order to work well. If blood supply is stopped even for a short time, this can cause problems. Brain cells begin to die after just a few minutes without blood or oxygen.

When brain cells die, brain function is lost. You may not be able to do things that are controlled by that part of the brain. For example, a stroke may affect your ability to move, speak, eat, think and remember, control your bowel and bladder, control your emotions and control other vital body functions. 

A stroke can happen to anyone at any time. However, if the proper treatment is administered quickly, damage to the brain can be minimized, allowing you to get back to your everyday life.

Dedicated Care

Covenant Health is home to East Tennessee’s only Stroke Hospital Network, which means no matter where you live, life saving treatment is always nearby. Each hospital in our network has the advanced diagnostics needed to diagnose a stroke and the ability to administer tPA, a medicine that breaks down stroke-causing blood clots. Our hospital emergency department staff and emergency medical services (EMS) personnel work together to diagnose and provide treatment within a narrow window of time.

We have the infrastructure, staff, and training to treat the most complex patients. Covenant Health is on the cutting edge of stroke medicine, performing clinical trials and procedures not available anywhere else in East Tennessee.

Across Covenant Health’s stroke network, more than 83% of patients who come to the emergency department with stroke symptoms are seen in less than 15 minutes.

MHHS Announces Advanced Stroke Certification

Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, a member of Covenant Health, the region’s only stroke hospital network, is pleased to announce it holds the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Heart-Check mark for Advanced Certification for Primary Stroke Centers.

Advanced Primary Stroke Center Certification recognizes hospitals that have demonstrated the greatest level of commitments to the care of stroke patients.

Five Covenant Health hospitals – Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, Fort Loudon Medical Center, LeConte Medical Center in Sevierville, Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge and Parkwest Medical Center in Knoxville – have received Advanced Certifications for Primary Stroke Centers. In addition, Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center in Knoxville has received The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Heart-Check Mark in conjunction with renewal of the hospital’s Advanced Certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. The designation means that Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center continues to be a part of an elite group of providers focused on complex and highly specialized stroke care.

“We are very pleased that these Covenant Health member hospitals have received advanced certifications for stroke care,” said Jim VanderSteeg, president and CEO. “Our stroke hospital network provides convenient local resources for stroke care in the communities we serve, and primary stroke certification is an affirmation of our hospitals’ commitment to patients who experience stroke. The network also provides East Tennesseans with access to the advanced technology and innovative treatments provided by our comprehensive stroke team.”

Nancy Brown, chief executive officer of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association, congratulated Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System on receiving the designation. “Covenant Health and its member hospitals have clearly made it a priority to deliver high quality care to all patients affected by stroke,” she said.

Warning Signs

It’s important to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms below, call 9-1-1 and seek immediate medical attention. Every second counts.

Warning Signs of Stroke


A stroke is caused when blood flow to your brain is stopped or disrupted. There are two kinds that occur most: ischemic and hemorrhagic.


This is the most common type. It happens when a major blood vessel in the brain is blocked. It may be blocked by a blood clot. Or it may be blocked by a buildup of fatty deposit and cholesterol. This buildup is called plaque. 


This occurs when a blood vessel in your brain bursts, spilling blood into nearby tissues. With a hemorrhagic stroke, pressure builds up in the nearby brain tissue. This causes even more damage and irritation. 

Risk Factors

Anyone can have a stroke at any age. But your chance increases if you have certain risk factors. Some risk factors can be changed or managed, while others can’t.

Risk factors that can be changed, treated, or medically managed:

  • High blood pressure 
  • Heart disease 
  • Diabetes 
  • Smoking 
  • Birth control pills (oral contraceptives)
  • History of TIAs (mini-strokes)
  • High red blood cell count
  • High blood cholesterol and lipids
  • Lack of exercise
  • Obesity
  • Excessive alcohol use
  • Illegal drugs
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Cardiac structural abnormalities 


Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death and a leading cause of serious, long-term adult disability.

Covenant Health’s Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center can help you and your loved one overcome disability and rediscover a satisfactory, productive lifestyle within the limits imposed by the stroke.  Patients are treated by a holistic team approach which includes the patient and family members. A team of physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, rehab psychologists (behavioral medicine), nursing staff, case managers, recreation therapists and physiatrists (rehab physician) make up the treatment team. The staff has extensive experience and training in the treatment of this disease.

Click here to learn more. 

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Patient Testimonials

Jim Bunch

Jim was recently driving his wife, Renee, to a doctor’s appointment in Morristown when his head began to feel cloudy. “I woke up that morning feeling perfectly fine,” he said. “I remember suddenly feeling very drained and tired at some point during the trip.” After recognizing the symptoms of a stroke, emergency responders were able to provide life-saving intervention. Read more about Jim’s story here.

Alline Little

When suffering a stroke, the paramedics told Little they were taking her to Fort Sanders Regional. After undergoing successful treatment, she says, “The paramedics said Fort Sanders Regional was the best. I’d read that on billboards, but I believe it now. We definitely believe it.”

Brenda Lee

Quick access to Fort Loudoun Medical Center, an advanced primary stroke center, gave Tellico Plains resident Brenda Lee immediate access to a diagnosis and specialized interventional care at Fort Sanders Regional.

Adam Hill

When interventional radiologist Keith Woodward, MD, repairs an aneurysm, Adam Hill stands beside him and hands him the instruments. But  Hill, who works in the interventional radiology lab, learned what it’s like to be the patient when he experienced a brain aneurysm.

Jim Cogdill

Patient regains mobility and function through three weeks of therapy at Patricia Neal Rehabilitation Center.