The importance of identifying stroke warning signs and symptoms

Last Modified: 5/18/2020

BE FAST stroke

This post was written by Tonya Deen, MSN, RN, stroke coordinator, Parkview Regional Medical Center.

The day was July 4, 2014, and my father suffered a major stroke unbeknownst to me. On July 5, my mother called to tell me that my dad was complaining of severe dizziness, being off balance and experiencing blurry vision. I couldn’t get the words out fast enough, “MOM, CALL 911! I think dad is having a stroke!” Because my father waited to seek emergent healthcare for almost two days, he missed out on any acute stroke treatment options like clot-busting medication or procedural clot removal that could have potentially limited his devastating stroke deficits. At that point, there was no more that could be done for him except months of rehabilitation therapy.

Stroke facts and treatment options

There have been great strides in stroke research over the last 25 years. In 2008, when I began working with stroke patients, stroke was the 3rd leading cause of death. Fast-forward to 2020 and stroke has now dropped to the 5th leading cause of death. More people are surviving strokes, but the key to surviving a stroke is quick identification of symptoms followed by immediate emergent care. People who seek treatment sooner have better outcomes. The two gold standard treatment options today include clot-busting medication given intravenously, and/or a clot removal procedure performed by a neurointerventionalist. Both treatment options are time-sensitive and depend on when the stroke symptoms began.

Stroke warning signs and symptoms

For years, Parkview Health has utilized the American Stroke Association’s F.A.S.T. acronym to educate our community, first responders and healthcare providers on how to identify warning signs and symptoms of a stroke. The F.A.S.T. acronym stands for:

  • Face:  Is it drooping?
  • Arm: Is there weakness?
  • Speech: Is the person having difficulty speaking?
  • Time: Time to call 911 immediately! 

More recently, our stroke program expanded the warning signs and symptoms to include sudden balance (B) problems and any sudden eye or visual (E) deficits. As a result, Parkview has now adopted B.E.F.A.S.T. for identifying potential strokes. Since May is National Stroke Awareness Month, my goal is to reinforce this essential public health message so stroke signs and symptoms can be recognized and treated without delay.

Ever wish you knew then what you know now? 

On that fateful Fourth of July day, had my mother (and father) known balance and visual deficits are potential warning signs of a stroke, they would have notified me much sooner, called 911 and my father would have been eligible for acute stroke treatment. Six years later, I’m very happy to report that my father can now walk with an assisted device, eat and drink regular food, and speak again. All those functions were originally taken from him by the stroke. If only they knew then what they know now. If only they had known B.E.F.A.S.T.

stroke graphic 2

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