Topeka (WIBW) - Thinking fast could be the difference between surviving a stroke and severe disability or even death.
Stroke is the third-leading cause of death, and the leading cause of disability, in the United States, but many people don't know the signs it's happening.
Stormont-Vail Clinical Educator Susan Gray, RN, says the word "fast" offers the clues you need.
She says the FAST campaign stands for Face, Arms, Speech and Time.
For face, Gray says have the person smile and take note of whether it droops on one side. For arms, have them hold their arms in front of them and see if one arm starts to drift. Speech refers to whether the person might slur words in a simple sentence. If any of those is abnormal, Gray says it's "time" to call 911.
Gray says these signs of a stroke come on suddenly and often come with other symptoms, such as a sudden headache, dizziness or trouble seeing.
She says calling an ambulance is vital. Those emergency crews can alert the emergency room that the person is on the way so the appropriate staff can be ready and waitng. At Stormont-Vail, she says, that includes CT, since the new 128-slice CT scanner is able to tell where the damaged tissue in the brain is located.
One reason time is of the essence is because the drug that can break up the clot and prevent damage of a stroke, TPA, must be given within three hours of the onset of a stroke to be effective, and to reduce risk of bleeding. Gray says only three-percent of those who would qualify for TPA actually get it because the rest don't recognize the symptoms and get to the hospital quickly enough.
Every minute after that initial three hours means more time the brain is starved for oxygen. Brain cells die quickly, Gray says, so the longer it is, the more chance for disability and severe impairment.