FAST Action Lessens Stroke Impact
Denise Ferrie grabbed her purse. She was done for the day, wrapping things up at her part-time job, getting set to drive home. That’s when this weird feeling hit – something she’d never experienced.
“Denise, sit down, right now,” said her friend and coworker, who noticed the muscles in Ferrie’s face had gone slack. Another coworker quickly dialed 911. In just a few minutes, EMTs and firefighters arrived. They immediately helped the 68-year-old woman to an ambulance that sped to the emergency room at Avera McKennan Hospital & University Health Center.
“The stroke team was there to meet me, including Dr. (Andrew) Ridder. They were wonderful – everyone was,” said Ferrie, who said her friend, Mickey Metcalf, and her quick thinking, saved her. “Dr. Ridder had the team take me for the CT scan, and thank God there was no bleeding in my brain. Within an hour, they administered the medication to help break up the clot.”
That was a Tuesday morning – by the weekend, she was able to see a family dance event. She was back at Mass on Sunday morning.
“I thank God and I thank Avera,” she said. “I just knew there was something wrong the moment it happened. I could tell I was slurring my speech and my face felt numb.”
The signs Ferrie and her friends noted are part of a six-part memory tool to help anyone who is facing a stroke to know what to do, known as BE FAST:
Balance – Loss of balance or coordination
Eyes – Sudden blurred or double vision or other vision trouble.
Face – One or both sides of the face droops
Arms – One or both arms drift downward when held up, or feel numb or limp
Speech – Slurred or garbled speech
Time – Call 911 to get immediate help
“I remember talking to a friend who had a friend who hesitated when she had stroke. She faced much more damage and after effects,” Ferrie said. “I think Mickey’s fast thinking, the ambulance and Dr. Ridder acting so fast led me to have so little after effects. I only notice it a little in my voice, and only when I’m tired.”
Every moment counts when facing strokes.
“Time is brain, is the expression we often use,” said Andrew Ridder, MD, Avera Medical Group neurologist. “We were able to give Denise tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) to break up the clot, because the longer the blood supply is cut off to parts of the brain, the more damage occurs.”
Ferrie said she now tells friends and loved ones what to do if it happens to them.
“You have to act, and act fast – get it checked,” she said. “Call 911 and get to a hospital. It’s much better to do that and have it be a false alarm than to wait and have it damage you more.”