Lifesaver: Knowing What to Do When Stroke Strikes

May is stroke awareness month, which is a perfect time to remind people about the signs and symptoms of stroke and why it is imperative that a person exhibiting signs receives immediate medical attention.

You may have heard the phrase, “Time lost is brain lost.” When a stroke occurs, it’s often sudden. Understanding the symptoms will allow you to act quickly and decisively. Every minute a stroke victim remains untreated could mean the difference between a full recovery and loss of important functions such as speech or movement.

5 Stroke Symptoms Everyone Should Know

How would you know if a family member is having a stroke? Look for these classic signs and take immediate action to get medical attention:

If a loved one experiences a sudden onset of:

  • Abnormal speech or loss of speech or confusion
  • Weakness or numbness of the face, arms, or legs, especially on one side of the body
  • Severe imbalance, difficulty walking or dizziness
  • Loss of sight in one or both eyes
  • Severe headache

He or she may be having a stroke. Call 9-1-1 Immediately at the first sign of any or all of these classic stroke symptoms.

Family Members Play a Crucial Part in Saving a Loved One’s Life from Stroke

Now you know that time is brain and immediate action and medical attention can save a stroke victim’s life. But, did you also know that family members and those living with the patient play a key role in if and when lifesaving stroke treatments are delivered?

According to Eric Aldrich, M.D., medical director of the stroke center at Howard County General Hospital, one of the first questions emergency personnel, including EMS workers and Emergency Department physicians, will ask is at what time the first symptoms of stroke began.

“Believe it or not, stroke diagnosis comes down to and starts with good old fashioned history,” said Dr. Aldrich. HCGH’s emergency medicine physicians work closely with a team of neurologists and will ask family members about the patient’s first signs of stroke including:

  • When was the patient last seen normal?
  • Did the patient stop speaking? If so, when?
  • Is his or her right side of the body weak?

“This history and description provided by family members, coupled with the medical exam and CT imaging, helps our team make the quick decision on whether it’s appropriate to give tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) – the clot busting drug that dissolves the clot causing the stroke.” Dr. Aldrich added that being within the 4 to 4 ½ hour window from onset of stroke symptoms to when the tPA is given makes a big difference in how a stroke victim recovers function.

When it comes to stroke, be aware and act FAST.

Watch Dr. Aldrich explain how a stroke is diagnosed, the symptoms and prognosis, and how families can assist with care and a loved one’s road to recovery.