A stroke is a brain attack, caused when an artery is blocked by a clot or bursts - and part of the brain starts to die.
Check for the signs of a stroke by thinking FAST:
- Face – does their face droop on one side?
- Arm – can they lift both their arms?
- Speech – do they have trouble speaking?
- Time – If they have any of these signs, call 911 immediately.
See a sign of stroke? Call 911 now
When you call 911 for someone who might be having a stroke, you might be saving their life. Thanks to new treatments in recent years, it's possible for a stroke patient who gets care quickly to not only survive, but to avoid serious disability. Faster treatment means they're more likely to return home to family and routines.
Yet only 58% of stroke patients in Washington arrive at the hospital by ambulance.
Signs of stroke
If you think someone might be having a stroke, think FAST. Just one of these signs — from mild to severe — may indicate a stroke. Even if the sign comes and goes, call 911 right away.
Signs of a stroke start suddenly and include:
Sudden numbness or weakness in their face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.
Sudden confusion or trouble understanding speech.
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, or loss of balance or coordination.
Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Overcoming 'wait and see'
Even if you're familiar with the signs of stroke, they may be confusing or unclear in the moment. Especially in family settings, that uncertainty can slow down decision-making – which delays the patient's arrival at the hospital.
When they see signs of stroke as mild or insignificant, family members often decide against calling an ambulance. In many cases, they instead discuss the symptoms among themselves until they agree to “wait and see” what happens. That leads to treatment delays with sometimes serious health consequences for their loved ones.
Make the call
Don't wait. When you think someone might be having a stroke, call 911 now.
You don't have to be sure it's a stroke to call for emergency response. It's the doctor's job to make the diagnosis and provide treatment. It's your job to make the call.
You could save a life. What a great way to say "I love you."
Download stroke education materials
Washington Coverdell Stroke Program
1. Dhand, A., Luke, D., Lang, C., Tsiaklides, M., Feske, S., & Lee, J. M. (2019). Social networks and risk of delayed hospital arrival after acute stroke. Nature.