How to Respond if Someone You Know Has a Stroke
Strokes strike quickly and with little or no warning. You may be in the middle of a conversation with a loved one or friend when something suddenly seems amiss. The steps you take next will likely make a critical difference in whether that person survives and recovers.
As stroke malpractice attorneys, we often work with stroke victims whose doctors did not realize that they were having a stroke until serious damage was done.
If doctors can miss the signs of a stroke, so can you. Doctors usually make that mistake because they are hurried, inattentive, or making dangerous assumptions. Other people make the mistake because they simply don’t know what to look for — or because they can’t believe that the person they’re with could possibly be experiencing a stroke.
Here’s what you need to know:
- Strokes can affect anyone, regardless of gender, good health, or age.
- Every stroke is a life-threatening emergency, and each minute matters. The sooner you call 911, the better. Delay costs lives. Time costs tissue.
- Some people experience a mini-stroke or TIA, which is identical to a stroke except that it lasts a very short period of time and then the person seems to recover. TIAs are often warning signs that a bigger stroke is on the way, and you should treat any suspected TIA as an emergency.
How to Identify a Stroke
Medical experts urge everyone to commit a single acronym to memory: FAST.
F — Face
A stroke victim’s face may suddenly droop on one side. Ask the person to smile. The smile may appear uneven or unresponsive on one side. Ask the person to raise both eyebrows simultaneously. You may notice that one eyebrow appears weak, droopy, or unresponsive.
A — Arm
Stroke victims frequently experience weakness in one arm. To check for this sign, ask the victim to extend both arms in front of the body, raising them to shoulder level. Gently push down on the person’s arms and ask that they push back up against your resistance. If one of the arms drops or cannot be raised, the person may be experiencing a stroke.
S — Speech
Stroke victims may have slurred speed. Alternatively, they may have a hard time remembering their words or getting through a sentence. Ask the person to repeat a word or sentence and listen carefully to his or her speech.
T — Time
The T is a reminder that time is of the essence. The stroke is causing more damage with each passing second and may quickly lead to death. By acting quickly, you could save a life.
Some victims exhibit different or additional signs. These might include:
- Poor balance or coordination
- A sudden, severe, “thunderclap” headache (typically described as the worst headache of their lives)
- Vision problems in one or both eyes (e.g. blurry, dim, or double vision)
- Tingling, numbness, or decreased sensitivity on one side of the body
No two stroke victims are exactly the same. It is possible to have some symptoms but not others. It is a myth that all stroke victims experience pain. Many do not.
How to Respond to a Stroke
With any suspected stroke, your first and most important step is simply to call 911 and wait for an ambulance. Do not attempt to take the person to the hospital yourself unless instructed to do so by 911, and don’t allow the victim to attempt to drive.
After calling 911, take the following steps:
- Do not leave the victim alone.
- Stay calm. Try to keep the victim calm too. You have an opportunity to be a calming and optimistic presence, which can be very helpful. But save your calming efforts until after you have called 911.
- Do not allow the person to consume food, drink, or medication. Victims sometimes ask for aspirin if they are in pain, but that can pose a life threatening complication.
- Take notes if you can. Quickly jot down the time, the person’s symptoms, and any information about medication or drugs they may have taken.
If you have acted fast, then rest assured that there are many steps that 911 and the Emergency Room can take to save your loved one. Stroke science has come a long way, and many victims go on to lead normal lives.
Help with Stroke Malpractice in Florida
Most Emergency Room doctors provide excellent stroke care. Unfortunately, though, stroke malpractice does happen. If you accompany the victim to the ER, be attentive and vigilant. Make sure that the nurses and doctors take the victim’s symptoms seriously and fully investigate the possibility of stroke. Failure to do so may give rise to a claim for medical malpractice. The Miami stroke malpractice attorneys at Kaire & Heffernan, LLC can help.
Mark Kaire has been practicing law in Miami for nearly 15 years. He is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation. Mr. Kaire has been blogging on Miami’s legal issues for 4 years.