Watching a loved one having a stroke can be a very frightening event. The person may complain of a headache, or feeling "off." They may start slurring their speech or moving awkwardly. They may lose control of one side of their body. It can all happen in a matter of seconds.
The basic definition of a stroke is lack of oxygen to a small portion of the brain. When a blood vessel to the brain bursts or is blocked by a clot, the blood and oxygen feeding that part of the brain are shut off. Starved for nutrients, the affected brain cells begin dying.
Since this can all happen in a matter of seconds, there might not be much warning of what is to come. That is why everyone must be ready to act:
- Notice something is wrong.
- Recognize the symptoms as a possible stroke.
- Call for emergency help.
- Get to the hospital.
Getting medical treatment immediately is key, especially in the case of a blood clot. Most strokes are due to clots. A medication called a tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, can destroy the clot and restore blood flow. However, it must be given within three hours of the stroke's start.
Three hours might seem like a long time. In those three hours, medical observation and treatment are essential. In other words, from the first sign of problems, the clock is ticking.
If you think someone is having a stroke, ask the person to give you five, which means testing the following five body functions:
- Walk. Can the person stand straight? Is his or her balance off? Is one foot dragging?
- Talk. Is his or her face droopy or speech slurred? Can the person speak clearly and make sense?
- Reach. Is one side weak or numb? Can he or she raise both arms together, or does one arm fall? Test each hand's grasp by asking the person to squeeze your fingers.
- See. Is the person's vision all or partially lost? Can he or she see clearly? Is any part of the visual field blocked or blurred?
- Feel. Does the person have a severe headache? Is that unusual, or is this headache different from normal?
Any symptom—even one and even if it goes away—may signal a stroke, so call 911 right away.
ACMC Is a Primary Stroke Center
When a person is having a stroke, time wasted means more damage to the brain. That's why a facility like Ashtabula County Medical Center puts a priority on patients who may have stroke symptoms.
That dedication to healthcare has earned ACMC Stroke Certification from The Joint Commission. The designation declares that ACMC is a Primary Stroke Center—the only one in Ashtabula County. When a person first shows signs of a stroke, a protocol dedicated to getting the fastest, appropriate treatment is enacted. A team of health experts—including a neurologist, respiratory therapist and hospitalist—work together to determine the best course of action for the patient.
To be named a Primary Stroke Center, ACMC's medical experts had to show a history of effective, timely care to stroke victims and procedures that can significantly improve the outcomes for stroke patients.