“In hindsight, we did the right thing, the wrong way,” Barbara Merritt said. “We should have called 911 right away. Fortunately, Dan’s story turned out okay, but we know we got incredibly lucky.”
Lucky, because people who don’t go to the hospital via EMS reduce the odds of getting the best treatment for stroke, according to recent American Heart Association/American Stroke Association Get With The Guidelines-Stroke data.
For World Stroke Day on Oct. 29, the American Stroke Association will join others across the world to encourage people to save lives by responding promptly to stroke — the second leading cause of death worldwide.
“As a healthcare professional and as a stroke survivor myself, I can tell you that getting help quickly for stroke is more important than anything else you may be doing or have planned,” said Teri Ackerson, neuroscience program coordinator at Saint Luke’s Health System in Kansas City, Missouri and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association volunteer. “Whether you are the one experiencing symptoms or you see them in someone else, remember that stroke won’t wait, and neither should you.”
People reported varying reasons for delaying stroke treatment in an informal survey of American Stroke Association website visitors:
- Several hoped symptoms would resolve on their own.
- Many had other priorities, including finishing work, meeting up with family or even a scheduled hair appointment.
- Some expressed an outdated, fatalistic view of the disease.
“Looking back, the right response is clear, but in the moment, doubt and denial are natural responses to stroke signs and can lead to bad decisions,” Ackerson said. “The heart-breaking thing is that for many of these patients, we might have been able to decrease disability if they would have gotten to us sooner and by ambulance.”
Many ischemic strokes, which account for 87 percent of all strokes and are caused by an obstruction of blood flow to the brain, can be treated with the clot-busting medication tissue plasminogen activator (IV r-tPA/alteplase) and a stent retriever device that removes the clot.
Research has shown that 91 percent of eligible stroke patients treated with IV r-tPA and a stent retriever in two and a half hours or less had minimal or no disability.
“The same person who would have suffered a severely disabling or fatal stroke a few years ago now commonly walks out of the hospital a few days later,” said Alexander Khalessi, M.D., director of neurovascular surgery at the University of California, San Diego and national spokesperson for the American Stroke Association’s Together to End Stroke initiative. “Decades ago there were no treatments for stroke. Now we have therapies that may interrupt even the most severe and disabling stroke if we can get to it in time.”
Through Together to End Stroke, nationally sponsored by Medtronic, the American Stroke Association teaches the acronym F.A.S.T. as an easy way to remember the most common stroke warning signs and how to respond: Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulty, Time to call 911.
For more information on stroke treatment and World Stroke Day resources, visit StrokeAssociation.org.