My wonderfully talented friend Ilana recently published this video promoting the FAST stroke awareness campaign. I was so inspired by her efforts that i wanted to do more than simply join the thousands who viewed and /or shared her video.
On the morning of August 13th 1997 I got into the bath at home and immediately felt unwell: hot, dizzy and unbearably thirsty. I immediately regretted not having a glass of water before getting in but put the feeling down to having run the water too hot and being due my period that day so I continued with my ablutions by wetting my hair in preparation for shampooing.
It is at this point that the A (for Arms) from the FAST model made its appearance even though I was unaware of it at the time. All I knew was that I couldn’t reach the shampoo but couldn’t fathom why not.
At almost the exact same moment the S (for Speech) was noticed by my Mum who had called from downstairs to ask if I wanted breakfast. On hearing my slurred reply she ran upstairs and stormed into the bathroom which is where she found:
F (for Face). My Mum noticed that I was lying slumped to one side in the bath with my face similarly twisted.
Despite my protestations that I was fine, just too hot and thirsty, Mum was certain that something was very wrong so she acted immediately by calling the doctor who dispatched an ambulance as well as speeding from the surgery to the house in accordance with the
T (for Time). Because of the speedy response by my parents and G.P. I was being administered oxygen within about twenty minutes of the stroke and was in hospital barely ten minutes later. This timely response is undoubtedly part of the reason I am still here today and with the function I have.
Today a quick response is even more important than then as there are now widely available “clot busting” drugs which can remove the blockage in blood supply to the brain and prevent further damage.. The sooner these drugs can be administered the more function and quality of life the patient is likely to retain. Had such treatments been available at the time of my stroke there is a good chance I would have fewer impairments than I do even having received the best medical care available at the time.
I’ll finish by restating the FAST model for recognising and dealing with stroke:
FACE: Is their face drooping on one side? Are they unable to smile evenly?
ARMS: Are they unable to raise both arms?
SPEECH: Is their speech slurred or otherwise impaired?
TIME: If these signs are present time is of the essence. Your fast thinking and action could save the patient from suffering more brain damage. Call 999 in the U.K., 911 in the U.S.A. or 112 from a mobile phone on any G.S.M. network and ask for an ambulance, being sure to tell the operator you suspect a stroke to ensure they get the right care as soon as possible.
You can find Ilana on Twitter @IlanaGaladriel