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Oregon Family Magazine

Be a Stroke Hero

04/30/2022 ● By Dr. Elaine Skalabrin
Q: A neighbor of ours recently had a stroke and is recovering well because his wife, a retired nurse, recognized what was happening and got medical help immediately. What kind of medical training do you need to be able to tell that someone is having a stroke?

A: Anyone can learn to recognize the signs of stroke—no special medical training is necessary. In fact, several neurology nurses at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend recently gave a presentation entitled “You Can Be a Stroke Hero” to members of a local Boy Scout troop and their parents. The presentation’s objective was to empower kids to be “Stroke Heroes” by teaching the symptoms to look for and the importance of getting help right away by calling 911. 

A stroke occurs suddenly and usually affects one side of the body. However, the symptoms vary depending on which region of the brain is affected. Usually, it takes a family member or bystander to recognize the symptoms because it’s often hard for the person having the stroke to understand what is happening.

To recognize stroke symptoms, we use the simple acronym BE FAST. Look for sudden changes in Balance, Eyesight, Face, Arm and Speech. The final “T” is for time — a reminder to call 911 quickly. Stroke is an emergency!

Strokes occur when blood flow to the brain is disrupted— by a blood clot, or a blood vessel rupture. Ischemic stroke accounts for around 85 percent of strokes, occurring when blood flow to the brain is blocked. The remaining 15 percent are hemorrhagic strokes, caused when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or bursts. Each year, about 795,000 people in the U.S. have a stroke, making it the leading cause of disability in adults and the fifth leading cause of death in this country.

With a stroke, every second counts. Nearly 2 million brain cells die every minute a stroke remains untreated. Rapid access to medical treatment can make the difference between permanent disability and full recovery.  

Dr. Elaine Skalabrin has practiced as a neurohospitalist at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend since 2010 and is the medical director of the Comprehensive Stroke Center at RiverBend.