Patricia Blackmon was overwhelmed. Her husband Larry was recovering from serious medical issues and a month-long stay at New Hanover Regional Medical Center. She was juggling the reality of taking care of him, her family, their beloved pets and travels between their vacation home on Oak Island and Concord where they live outside of Charlotte.
One evening, just days after her husband suffered a stroke, she was looking in the mirror, felt weakness in her knee and buckled to the floor. Within seconds, she realized she was having a stroke too.
Her mind clicked into a four-step process. She looked for facial droop. There wasn’t one but she went to the next step. She held out her arms – one was steady but the other was circling wildly and she couldn’t seem to hold it in place. Her speech didn’t seem slurred, but she called 911 anyway. Because she acted fast, those quick minutes of getting emergency personnel to her door saved her from losing vital brain tissue and quite possibly her life.
Fast, as in F.A.S.T.
The acronym for signs of a stroke was something Patricia had just learned in a class while visiting Larry at the . Part of the process in rehabilitating patients is educating caregivers on their loved one’s medical conditions. For the Blackmons, that included a 45-minute stroke class with a speech pathologist and a dietitian.
“One of the first things we talk about in the stroke class is F.A.S.T. We provide a model of how to test it out and the importance of getting help right away,” said Kristen Simeon, a speech pathologist at NHRMC who has been teaching the class for almost three years. “It can be lifesaving.”
Patricia reviewed the booklet handed out during the stroke class the night before she had her own stroke. She’s not sure what prompted her interest, but the lessons proved true to Kristen’s words.
Time on their side
Larry is still shocked that his energetic wife, who has been teaching dance lessons for decades, was in the hospital at the same time he was.
When his family told him the news of Patricia’s stroke, he convinced his nurses to “sneak” out of the Rehabilitation Hospital over to Patricia’s room so he could deliver her flowers and visit with her. In pure Patricia form, she was up and walking around the next day and discharged three days later with no damage to her body.
The information from the stroke class was “a very simple, easy course with some basic handouts and nothing elaborate,” said Larry. The simplicity of it stuck with both he and Patricia and they agree that without it, her outcome would have been very different.
“I might have been out of that hour range and they might not have been able to treat it if I had waited,” Patricia added. “It’s important that I knew what to do and that I got here in time.”
What You Need to Know About Stroke