TORRANCE (CBSLA) — L.A. County has launched a new program to help get stroke patients the treatment they need as soon as possible.

The program, launched earlier this month, lets paramedics take patients to one of nine specialty stroke centers around the county — and it’s already proving to be a big success.

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Aida Fernandez credits doctors at a specialty center with saving her life after she suffered a stroke.

“I knew something was wrong,” she told CBS2/KCAL9’s Lisa Sigell.

The ambulance came but went 20 minutes past the closest hospital to a special stroke center at a Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center in Torrance. That decision may have made all the difference.

“We have nine comprehensive stroke centers in Los Angeles right now,” Dr. Jason Tarpley said. “The main purpose of those centers is to treat complex forms of stroke, including large vessel occlusions in the brain, ruptured aneurysms [and] bleeding in the brain.”

The facilities are designed to treat severe stroke patients using the most up-to-date techniques.

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The nine stroke centers in L.A. County make up the first program of its kind in the nation — and doctors say they are critical.

“The faster you can get to one of those nine centers, the absolute better you will do as a patient,” Dr. Tarpley said.

Emergency personnel assess patients in the ambulance to determine whether or not they should be transported to one of the specialty centers.

Fernandez is thankful for the program and even more thankful to meet the paramedics that made the quick call that saved her life. She says it’s a gift she can never repay.

“They saved my life,” she said. “I’m here.”

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Doctors want to reiterate: if you see signs of a stroke with anyone you love or with yourself, call 911 immediately.