When I was a child I had a wonderful great uncle who lived in San Diego, and delighted in shuttling my brother and me around to all the wonderful sights whenever we visited. He adored the zoo and the planetarium, and he could tell us details about everything from what a certain type of animal likes to eat to the names of distant stars.
Having moved across the country when I was a teenager, I rarely saw him, but I remember how much he adored his wife and my great aunt. And decades later, now that they are both gone, I think of him not only as one of my favorite uncles, but also as a “stroke hero” to his wife who suffered several strokes before finally passing away too soon.
My great uncle was a stroke hero because he was able to recognize that his wife was having a stroke, and was able to get her the help she needed quickly. Now that I know more about stroke and that it is the No. 1 cause of disability in our nation and the No. 5 cause of death, I realize just how much my uncle did to lengthen and improve his wife’s life.
During a stroke emergency, stroke heroes are the ones who may help make a difference between life and death or full recovery from permanent disability. And though every 40 seconds someone in America has a stroke, on average only about 8% of us can identify each letter in the F.A.S.T. acronym, which was created to teach everyone an easy way to remember stroke symptoms.
May is American Stroke Month and the American Stroke Association is teaching FAST to help people learn what to do if someone is having a stroke.
“F” is for face drooping, which means usually one side of the face is drooping or numb.
“A” is for arm weakness, meaning one arm may be weak or numb and that arm may drift downward when the person raises it.
“S” is for speech difficulty, which means slurred or difficult to understand speech.
And “T” means time to call 9-1-1, in order to get emergency medical personal on the way immediately.
Quick response has been proven to save lives and the majority of stroke patients who receive medical treatment within 3 – 4.5 hours can fully recover with a significant reduction in long-term brain damage.
Imagine for a moment losing someone close to you because of stroke. A massive stroke can disable and even kill. What would your life be like if your spouse, sibling or parent was suddenly affected? Stroke can strike at any age so learning FAST is vital and will help you become a stroke hero to those you love.
Visit www.strokeassociation.org to download the FAST mobile app and take the FAST quiz.
Beth Langefels has been the communications director for the Miami Valley and Northwest Ohio Divisions of the American Heart and American Stroke Associations since 2006. She began her 25 year career in communications, public relations and marketing with a position in community relations at the Dayton Metro Library. She has worked for several prominent nonprofits in the community, including Hospice of Dayton, The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio, The Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and SAFY.