03 May 2006

You Can Save A Stroke Victim

Pay attention. This post could save someone's life.

If someone is having a stroke, it is urgent to get medical help quickly. There is a three hour window of opportunity to treat it. You can save a life if you know three simple questions that can allow you to determine that there is a high likelihood that someone is having a stroke.

[A] bystander can recognize a stroke by asking three simple questions:

1. Ask the individual to SMILE.

2. Ask him or her to RAISE BOTH ARMS.

3. Ask the person to SPEAK A SIMPLE SENTENCE coherently. (For example: It is sunny out today.)

If he or she has trouble with any of these tasks, call 9-1-1 immediately and describe the symptoms to the dispatcher.

The basic behind each of these tests is that usually a stroke affects mental control different sides of the body unequally. A stroke victim would likely have only a half smile, be unable to raise one arm, or have slurred speech because only half of the mouth is responding.

Another diagnostic list, which emphasizes that strokes involve a sudden change follows:

Learn to recognize a stroke and act quickly:

Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause
Call 9-1-1 immediately if you experience symptoms!
Time lost is brain lost!

Sometimes simple tests like the ones above will be wrong. But, a great many reasonable false alarms are worth it, if they save one life, or dramatically improve one person's quality of life.

Strokes are caused by blocked blood vessels in or enroute to the brain, and a combination of clot busting drugs and surgical procedures aimed at clearing the blockage can often get blood flowing again before the brain cells die. Once the brain cells are dead, the can't regenerate, so time is of the essence.

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