Could It Be a Stroke? Call 911 - Don't Drive or Delay

Treatment for a potential stroke needs to happen fast. If you think you or a loved one is having a stroke, the best - and the only option is to call 911 right away. Consequences of delay can be devastating.

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Could It Be a Stroke? Call 911 - Don't Drive or Delay
3 Min Read May 22nd, 2021

A loved one is having what you think is a stroke. What do you do? Do you drive them to the hospital or call 911? What is the fastest way to get life-saving treatment for a person who may be having a stroke?

Acting fast is essential when a person is having a stroke. The CDC says that if you think someone may be having a stroke, the following simple test is an excellent first step.

F—Face: Ask the individual to smile. Does one side of the face droop when they try to smile?

A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?

S—Speech: Ask the individual to repeat a simple phrase. Is the speech slurred or strange?

T—Time: If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.

Time – You Have Very Little Time

The last step - 'time' gives it away. The CDC says you should not drive the person to the hospital, and certainly, if you think you are having a stroke, don't drive yourself. Call an ambulance so that EMTs can initiate life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room. 

Take note of the time the symptoms started and pass that information along to the 911 operator of the EMTs who arrive. The amount of time that has gone by will help the health care providers determine the best treatment for each individual.

Remember, the more time between the start of a stroke and the treatment, the higher the risk of brain damage. When more time passes, it becomes much more challenging to reverse the symptoms. Treatment includes medications that, if given early on, can be very beneficial for the person to recover from a stroke. The idea is to preserve brain tissue to prevent long-term disability and death.

Stroke or TIA?

On occasion, the stroke symptoms appear and disappear quickly on their own. If the symptoms clear up quickly, it might be a transient ischemic attack or TIA. Many people refer to a TIA as a ministroke. The Mayo Clinic says a TIA usually lasts only a few minutes and doesn't usually cause permanent damage. However, it is still imperative to get to a hospital right away. One in three people who have a TIA will have a stroke, half occurring within a year after the transient ischemic attack.

TIA symptoms include:

  • Blindness in one or both eyes or double vision
  • Slurred or garbled speech or difficulty understanding others
  • Vertigo or loss of balance or coordination
  • Weakness, numbness, or paralysis in your face, arm, or leg, typically on one side of your body

Too many people delay seeking medical attention when it appears they are having a stroke or TIA. The message is clear. Don't delay. Call 911 right away. Minute’s count. Immediate treatment counts.

When people delay medical attention, the situation can be dire. Some consequences of stroke include problems with communication, memory loss, paralysis, mobility problems, seizures, urinary tract infections, bladder control issues, depression, and increased risk of another stroke.

Often people will need long-term health care due to the consequences form the stroke. Even death can occur without quick attention. Avoiding a stroke or TIA is always preferable. Be sure to get regular check-ups. Keep your blood pressure and weight under control. Talk to your doctor about other risk factors and family history. 

If you have family members at risk, remember F.A.S.T and call 911 right away.

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

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