Remarkable robot speeds stroke treatment in Clinton

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Robots used to be the subject of science fiction novels and vintage movies. Now, real-life medicine is tapping into this technology to treat stroke patients. It's taking place between Mercy Medical Center in Clinton and University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

These are steps of gratitude for Gerri and Highland Nichols.

"It felt good," she said.

The Clinton woman, 69, is back on her feet after suffering a stroke on May 20.

"With this, it's just amazing that I can walk and talk," she said.

A quick recovery, thanks in part to a robot. Inside the Mercy Medical Center Emergency Room, doctors from Clinton and the University of Iowa  team up for a teleconference. It's just like the link that helped to treat Gerri.

"It is the first robot in Iowa for telemedicine," said Dr. Harold Adams, director of the University of Iowa Stroke Center. "Telemedicine is in many ways the future for medicine in rural areas similar to Iowa."

Iowa City doctors control a camera to see through the robot in Clinton. The stroke team runs tests and talks directly with patients.

"I realized that the doctor in Iowa City was virtually right here in the Clinton E.R.," said Highland Nichols, Gerri's husband.

The robot is made by InTouch Health, a California-based telemedicine provider. It went live at Mercy on May 4.

The remarkable robot gives a quick response when seconds count. It's a blend of technology and teamwork that saves lives.

That diagnostic speed helped to prevent permanent paralysis for Gerri Nichols. Less than a month later, they admire this medical marvel.

"It just boggles your mind that they can do that," she said.

The University of Iowa hopes to expand the program to other hospitals in Eastern Iowa in coming months. It will be especially useful in rural areas that don't have specialists.

"My wife Gerri is here today because of the fast action of the tele-stroke," Highland concluded. "We're just so grateful."

Grateful for a robot that's rolling down the hall at Mercy Medical Center in Clinton.