It can be scary to witness someone experiencing a stroke, especially if you never have before. If you do see someone having a stroke, it is important to know that time is of the essence and your presence very well may help to save a life. In honor of Stroke Awareness Month, the neurosurgeons of IGEA Brain & Spine encourage our patients and their loved ones to learn the signs of a stroke, as well as some simple techniques for helping someone who may be having one.

What is a Stroke?

A stroke occurs when an area of the brain is cut off from blood flow, which can happen for several reasons. Ischemic strokes are the most common type of stroke, occurring when a blood vessel that leads to the brain is blocked by a blood clot. Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a weakened blood vessel ruptures in the brain.

In either case, brain cells may be damaged.

As a result, you may notice the stroke sufferer exhibiting several common symptoms.

Within the stroke-awareness community, the acronym FAST is used to help you identify the telltale signs of a stroke and provide you quick insights into the most urgent actions to take.

  • Facial Drooping – Does one side of the person’s face appear to “look lazy?” If you’re not entirely sure, ask them to smile and make note if their smile droops to one side.
  • Arm Weakness – Ask the person to raise both arms and see if one of them drifts downwards.
  • Speech Difficulties – Do they speak strangely or slur when asked to repeat a simple phrase?
  • Time to call 911 – If you observe any one of these symptoms, call 911 immediately.

Other symptoms that a stroke victim may display include:

  • difficulty with coordination
  • blurred or double vision
  • sudden headache
  • loss of sensation

What Should I do when Somebody is Having a Stroke?

FAST isn’t just an acronym meant to help you recognize the signs of a stroke. FAST is also a serious reminder to act quickly. After all, the sooner medical intervention is applied, the quicker the blood supply can be restored to the brain and the more quickly recovery can begin.

So, what should you do if you do witness somebody displaying the signs of a stroke?

If you suspect somebody may be having a stroke…

  1. Call 911 Immediately. Emergency medical staff have a short window of time to most effectively treat the patient. Call 911 before calling family members or the individual’s primary care doctor. Remember, getting the patient emergency medical attention is your most critical priority.
  2. Take notes. After calling 911, make a note of the approximate time you noticed initial symptoms, as this information will help doctors during diagnosis and treatment. If you know the patient, make a list of all the person’s medical conditions and medications taken.
  3. Stay with the patient. In the event of a stroke-related seizure, which may cause a loss of coordination, the patient may be at risk for falls. Remain present with the patient so that you can help to prevent further injury.
  4. Remain Calm. Your composure can help the stroke sufferer feel safe. Assure the patient that everything will be okay and do your best to remain calm.
  5. Do NOT administer any medication. Depending on the type of stroke, aspirin may be helpful or harmful. Emergency room personnel have the training and necessary equipment to know which type of stroke is occurring and make the best treatment decisions. So, leave medication administration to the professionals.
  6. Do NOT give them food or drink.A stroke can affect someone’s ability to swallow safely, putting the stroke patient at risk of choking. Refrain from offering water or food.

Stroke Recovery and Prevention from a Dedicated Practice

Quality care is not optional.

IGEA Brain & Spine’s world-class team of neurosurgeons, serving the New York/New Jersey region, know firsthand the benefits of early medical intervention for people having a stroke. Educating yourself about the symptoms of a stroke and understanding what to do in the event of a stroke not only helps to save a life but also the quality of that life.

If you or someone you know has had a stroke or may be at risk for a stroke, contact us to schedule an appointment at one of our several brain and spine offices throughout New Jersey and New York. Put yourself—and your brain—in good hands, because getting the best stroke care is not optional.