Act FAST: Learn the Signs of a Stroke
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strokes are among the leading causes of death and serious long term disability for Americans.
May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and recognizing a stroke quickly could be the difference between life or death.
For 65-year-old Steve Schaff, understanding how to get help fast turned a potentially devastating situation into a second chance.
"The doctors were preparing my wife that your husband is going to go through some things, his life is forever changed," he says.
It's been about two years since Schaff had a stroke. He has atrial fibrillation, and says not properly taking medications led to a blood clot.
"I was feeling fatigued and tired," he explains, "laid down for late afternoon nap and crashed out of bed. My wife noticed the symptoms of my face drooping, [and] immediately called 911."
Schaff was rushed to the ER where doctors at UF Health removed a clot from his right hemisphere. It all happened when Schaff was just 54 years old.
"Last year it would surprise most people to know that 40% of our admissions were under the age of 60." Dr. Michael Waters, Medical Director of UF Health Shands Comprehensive Stroke Center says, "so it is very prevalent in the population, and important for everyone to be very aware and alert of the signs and symptoms."
Those symptoms can be summed up using the acronym FAST:
F - Face: the left side often droops during a stroke and can be numb...
A - Arms: if the arms are raised, does one droop down? You may experience weakness or numbness in the arms or legs on one side.
S - Speech: it can be slurred or jumbled.
T - Time to call 9-1-1 immediately.
Other symptoms include sudden weakness, numbness, confusion, trouble seeing, dizziness, or a severe headache with no known cause.
"My ability to help you is 100% dependent on how quickly you come to the hospital," Waters says.
During a stroke, every minute counts. Because Schaff made it to the hospital so quickly, doctors say they could remove the clot before any severe damage was done.
"If we hit a golf shot and it's not it's not a very good one, we can do over - we get a second chance," Schaff says, "and we call that second chance a mulligan. After all this, there's no doubt that God is giving me a mulligan in life."
His mulligan: not only a second chance to get back in the game, but also a chance to send others a message.
When it comes to a stroke, fast action can save lives.
"I think we're doing a reasonable job in public outreach and education, certainly there's a much greater awareness of stroke is an entity in the signs and symptoms of stroke currently than there has been an even the last five years, certainly in the last decade, but we still have a lot of work to do," Waters says.
The UF Health Shands Comprehensive Stroke Center was honored this year by The American Heart Association & American Stroke Association with their annual "Get with The Guidelines Stroke Gold Plus Performance Award." This is the fourth consecutive year the center has received the honor. All month long, UF Health organizations have been working to offer free screenings and educational events during Stroke Awareness Month.
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