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What should I do if I think someone is having a stroke?
Norman I. Bamber, MD, is a neurosurgeon and
the medical director of the Stroke Center at
St. Joseph Medical Center
Think FAST! That is, do you know the person is having a stroke? FAST is an acronym you can remember to help you determine if a stroke is happening and to act.
- F - Face: Does the person's face look uneven? Ask them to smile. If one side droops, it is stroke sign.
- A - Arm: Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
- S - Speech Difficulty: Is speech slurred, are they unable to speak, or are they hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, such as "the sky is blue." If not repeated correctly, it is a stroke sign.
- T - Time is Brain: Even if symptoms diminish, call 9-1-1 and get them to the hospital immediately. Every minute counts in treating stroke. Timely treatment can mean the difference between returning to work or becoming permanently disabled. It can make the difference between life and death. Treatments work best when you get to the hospital quickly. Every second wasted is brain tissue lost, increasing the risk for death or disability. Also, check the time so you can tell responders when the symptoms first appeared.
Despite educational efforts to encourage people to call 9-1-1 at the earliest signs of stroke, nationwide, only about half of stroke patients arrive at emergency rooms via ambulance - a rate that hasn’t changed over a 10-year period.
A clot-dissolving drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) may improve the chances of getting better but only if it's administered within 4.5 hours of onset . Many patients aren't getting to the hospital in time.
Being transported via ambulance results in faster arrival at the Emergency Department. In addition, the EMS crew will call ahead so the receiving hospital can arrange to have staff mobilized and prepared.