As part of World Stroke Day, Memorial Medical Center is encouraging its employees to learn the warning signs of a stroke and to teach others in the community a quick test to determine if someone may be experiencing a stroke.
“We want to encourage the people in our profession and the community to pay it forward by taking the time to learn a simple screening,” said Amanda Conn, a registered nurse who serves as Memorial’s stroke center program coordinator for neurosciences. “It only takes five minutes to learn and could save a lot of lives.”
World Stroke Day is Oct. 29. The test is called FAST, which is an acronym for Face, Arms, Speech, Time.
Here’s how the FAST screening works: If you suspect someone may be having a stroke, you should first check for facial weaknesses – anything that’s different from one side of the face to the other, such as an uneven smile.
Next, have the person hold out their arms as if they’re holding a tray. If the person is unable to raise both arms evenly or if one arm is slightly drifting or numb, it could be a sign of trouble, Conn said.
Does their speech sound strange? Ask the person to repeat simple phrases to test their speech. Slurred speech or difficulty repeating those phrases could be a sign of a stroke. For the final step, note the time when the person was last seen without symptoms. Most important, call 911 immediately.
“A stroke is an emergency,” Conn said. “Identifying stroke symptoms and taking immediate action are crucial because treatment options are so time dependent.”
A clot-busting medication, tPA, and interventional procedures can improve the chances of recovering from a stroke, but the treatments can only be offered during the first few hours.
Memorial staff members will hand out bookmarks that explain the FAST screening in four locations in the hospital to staff and visitors on Oct. 29. Employees will also be encouraged to teach the FAST screening to at least one person in the community, Conn said.
“Patients don’t always recognize their own stroke and when they do, sometimes their symptoms make calling for help difficult, if not impossible,” Conn said. “Just like we need to learn CPR to save someone else’s life, we need to learn how to spot a stroke and act fast for the best chance of a positive outcome.”