F.A.S.T. Action Important at Time of Stroke

by Donna McCollum

Stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the United States, after cancer and heart disease. Recovery increases when fast action is taken. This is happening for Doris Johnson of Nacogdoches because she knew a quick and easy way to recognize stroke symptoms.

Johnson wants everyone to know that, "If you think someone is having a stroke, see if they can smile, see if they can raise their hands above their head, make a sentence." Johnson provides information she had read in a widely circulated e-mail on the stroke term F.A.S.T. The term refers to stroke symptoms to watch for in the face, arms, and speech, and that time is important.

The information may have saved her life just over two months ago. Johnson recalled, "We were at a doctor's office. We were going for my husband's office call. We were in the elevator. I said, 'I'm having a stroke,' and as soon as the doors opened, I said, 'Get the doctor.'"

Occupational therapist Diane McFarland believes that fast action is making recovery easier for Johnson. "Because she got immediate medical care and got immediately to a doctor who helped her make reasonable choices about treatment, she got the very best care, and I think her stroke was as minimal as it could have been."

Not everybody can be as lucky as Doris and step right off an elevator into a doctor's office, but everyone can listen to their body and pay attention to the warning signs. McFarland knows that, "Sometimes, people do delay because they think, 'Oh, it's little thing and it will go away,' and then it continues to progress and, so, I think the damage gets worse and worse over time."

Thanks to Johnson's fast action, she has a lot to smile about today.

The National Stroke Association recommends you act F.A.S.T.

  • Face - ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
  • Arms - ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech - ask the person to repeat a simple sentence (e.g. "It's sunny today"). Are the words slurred? can the person repeat the sentence correctly?
  • Time - If the person shows any symptoms, time is important. Call 9-1-1- immediately.