News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Stroke awareness can save lives

Linda and Susan were at the dress rehearsal for the community theater’s summer play. All was going well, until time for Kevin to walk on and begin his dialogue. There was a brief delay after the queue but no Kevin. That was strange. The actors had seen him just before rehearsal. Thinking he did not hear, they redid the scene. No Kevin. Linda and Susan walked backstage and found Kevin standing with a strange look on his face. One side of his face drooped. “Are you alright?” Kevin’s response was a jumble of disconnected words.

Having learned about F.A.S.T. from a Stroke Awareness Oregon presentation, they recognized that Kevin was showing signs of a stroke. EMS arrived soon after Linda called 9-1-1 and transported Kevin to the hospital. There, he was quickly evaluated and received treatment for stroke. Because Linda and Susan knew F.A.S.T., Kevin recovered with only minor remaining symptoms. He rejoined the community theater that fall.

Each year, more than 800,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke. Stroke, the fifth-leading cause of death in Oregon, is also the leading cause of disability worldwide. Stroke can kill areas of your brain that control essential functions like movement, vision, thinking or the ability to speak. Stroke doesn’t care about age, race, gender, or economic standing.

In fact, while 60 percent of strokes occur in people over 65, there is an alarming uptick in stroke in young adults. Importantly, 80 percent of strokes can be prevented. Key risk factors are atrial fibrillation, elevated cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure. People with these risk factors should work closely with their physicians on management.

Stroke Awareness Oregon, a Central Oregon nonprofit, was created to save lives by sharing important information about stroke causes and prevention and working to make F.A.S.T. a household safety word.

Strokes, or ischemic strokes, are due to disruption of blood flow to the brain. Brain-cell injury and death from loss of blood flow occurs rapidly. Two million brain cells die every minute a major brain artery is blocked. If the blockage is removed within 150 minutes by clot-dissolving drugs or clot-retrieval procedures, over 90 percent of stroke victims will recover. After that, chances for good recovery drops significantly.

Because St. Charles has state-of-the-art stroke technology and treatment protocols, and because Central Oregonians are learning F.A.S.T., things have changed. We now see stroke victims, whose lives would have previously been destroyed, making full recoveries. But this only happens if we remember that every minute is important.

What is F.A.S.T.? These letters are an effective way to identify when someone may be having a stroke.

Face drooping on one side

Arm or one-sided weakness

Speech that is garbled or an inability to speak

Time to call 9-1-1!

If you see any of the F.A.S.T. signs, do not hesitate. While we are in the middle of the pandemic, do not hesitate if you recognize that someone is having a stroke. EMS and hospitals have precautions in place for your protection.

If you or a loved one has experienced a stroke, undoubtedly, your world is rocked. Online support groups for survivors and care partners are helpful. Stroke families don’t have to walk alone. Feeling depressed, fearful, embarrassed, and overwhelmed is common.

One care partner explained “this is the hardest job I never applied for.” But you are not alone. In 2020, St. Charles, Bend, treated over 600 victims of stroke.

Here’s what you can do: work with your primary care physician to address all stroke risk factors and make sure that you and your family know F.A.S.T. Reach out to Stroke Awareness Oregon for support for you or your loved one or if you wish to learn more.


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