Karen’s Story

Survival the Fast Way.

Thanks to my husband memorizing the FAST acronym he was able to save my life from a stroke. He also prevented me from becoming paralyzed or otherwise injured. Of course, I am overjoyed and tremendously grateful for his actions, but what exactly did he do?

On an early summer morning, I fell out of bed. When my husband Andy couldn’t make sense of what I was saying, he immediately diagnosed the fact that I was having a major stroke. He immediately dialed 911 to tell the paramedics I was having a stroke, and they quickly rushed to bring me to the hospital. The paramedics agreed with Andy’s diagnosis and sent a stroke alert to Delray Medical Center, which has a dedicated stroke team. Within 88 minutes, Dr. Nils Mueller and the Delray Medical Center stroke team had treated me with the most effective new clot-busting drug, and a large blood clot had been removed from my brain. In consequence, I have had no resulting deficits or damage from the stroke. The medical and nursing staffs said I was a miracle, and I’ve even become an unnamed poster girl for the hospital.

All this happened because my husband remembered the acronym FAST, which defines the procedure for diagnosing a stroke quickly. F (stands for face): does the affected individual show a drooping or contorted face? A stroke victim’s face definitely looks abnormal. A stands for arms: can the affected individual raise both hands above his or her head? Stroke victims may not be able to. S stands for speech: can the affected individual speak clearly? Stroke victims slur their words and cannot speak clearly. T stands for time: the faster you can get a stroke victim to the hospital the more likely it will be that he or she will survive and have few or no consequences of the stroke. If a stroke victim can be treated with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), the clot busting drug used to breakdown blood clots in the brain within three hours of the onset of the stroke, the better the medical outcome for the stroke victim.

Because of my good fortune in having a knowledgeable husband who knew the FAST test, I am still (or again) a healthy, independent person. I would like my experience to bring the knowledge of how to diagnose strokes to the wider public, so others can survive this frightening experience as well and as quickly as I did. It is absolutely critical to treat someone having a stroke as fast as possible, and, preferably, in a hospital with a dedicated stroke team. Time really is of the essence in dealing with this medical emergency. The faster you deal with a stroke, the more likely there will be a positive outcome. Please remember FAST and use it as quickly as you can if someone is showing signs of having a stroke. The longer a stroke patient waits to be treated, the more likely major damage will occur. Think positively: work FAST!