London

My son London

Today is my son London’s 11th birthday and I shutter to think how I might not have been here to help him celebrate. In earlier entries, I’ve stressed the importance of taking care of yourself, which I should have done better. But how do you recognize a stroke when it’s happening? You do it F.A.S.T.

F.A.S.T. is an initialism (most people say acronym) for:

  • F – FACE: During a stroke, a persons face can droop noticeably. Ask the person you suspect of having a CVA to smile. This could also be associated with a sudden change in vision or severe headache, as well.
  • A – ARMS: This is part of what I ended up nicknaming the “stroke dance.” Doctors and neurologists kept asking me to raise my arms out in front of me. That’s because strokes can cause a weakness or numbness in the arm causing one arm or the other to drop while the other stays up. The patient may not even be able to lift one arm.
  • S – SPEECH: The public looks for this pattern as a stroke symptom. If the normal speech pattern seems disturbed, ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. By this you can determine if they can even repeat the sentence as well as detecting slurred speech. The most extreme form of this is called aphasia, which is a total breakdown in language capacity.
  • T – TIME: Let me bottom line this one. If any of these symptoms appear, any at all, call 911 immediately. Don’t wait. Don’t try to see if it will get better. CALL NOW. Every second counts because of the limited time period in which stroke effects can be turned around. If the stroke is caused by a blockage, like mine, a clot busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator can help if administered within the first 3 to 6 hours. Ask the doctor about tPA.

Is it cliché? Sure, but that’s why it sticks in your head. If you see any of these symptoms, act F.A.S.T. It can ensure that you see your kids next birthday, too.

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