Health Team

FAST action critical to recognizing, treating strokes

Posted May 25

Stroke is the fifth-leading cause of death in the United States, but it ranks as the No. 1 cause of disability.

Though some people are considered to be at a higher risk for a stroke, it can happen to anybody of any age.

Often, time is the key to survival. That was true for 61-year-old John Slayton.

In February, Slayton was in his bathroom getting ready for work when he noticed stroke symptoms.

"I was actually tying my tie when my right side stopped working," he said. "I sat down on the tub and slipped into the tub."

Slayton's wife heard the slip and suspected a stroke, so she called 911.

"When you have a stroke, unfortunately, you start with a sudden symptom such as a droopy face," Duke Raleigh Hospital neurosurgeon Dr. Luis Gonzalez said.

Act FAST to recognize, treat strokes

Anyone who suspects a family member or co-worker is having a stroke should remember the acronym FAST:

F - Face drooping

A - Arm weakness

S - Speech difficulty

T - Time to call 911

Gonzalez says a delayed response to a stroke further deprives the brain of oxygen-rich blood.

"Every hour that you miss, you have a 20 percent less chance of recovery," he said.

Slayton was assessed at WakeMed in Raleigh, but because the blood clot in his brain could not be treated with a clot-busting drug, doctors transferred him to Duke Raleigh Hospital.

Gonzalez was there, ready to reach the clot from the inside with a wire catheter inserted through an artery near the groin.

Gonzalez deployed a wire mesh device that ensnared the clot and pulled it out. The procedure took place with Slayton sedated.

"I woke up in the recovery room, and I was back to normal again," Slayton said, noting that he missed only one day of work.


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