Act FAST – that was the message from staff at South Tipperary General Hospital, the National Ambulance Service paramedics and HSE nurses who have teamed up for a stroke awareness campaign.
The aim of the campaign, ‘Face Arms Speech Time’ (FAST), was to help raise awareness about stroke disease and to get the word out to come to hospital quickly. Special FAST emergency ambulances were on site at the hospital to help promote the campaign.
The FAST signs are Face – has your face fallen to one side? Arms – Can you raise both arms and keep them up there? Speech - Is your speech slurred? Time- Ring 999 or 112 and go straight to hospital.
A recent audit shows that while the Clonmel hospital has a standard of excellence when dealing with stroke, patients are not coming in quickly enough (within 4 and-a-half hours of symptom onset) to get the clot-busting medication that could save their life and reduce their disability.
65 patients presented to the hospital with a diagnosis of Ischemic stroke in the past six months. Only 9 patients called 999 or 112 and arrived quickly enough to be considered for life-saving clot-busting treatment known as thrombolysis.
Gemma McLaughlin, Stroke Nurse Specialist at the hospital says “The earlier patients are assessed and treated after the onset of symptoms the better the potential outcome.
One person in five will have a stroke in their lifetime; however death and disability can be avoided if patients can avail of the special clot-busting treatment which has to be administered within 4 and-a-half hours of symptom onset”.
Alan Walsh, National Ambulance Service Operations Resource Manager at the hospital says “If you experience a facial droop, arm or leg weakness or slurred speech you need to come to hospital straight away.”
Hospital paramedic Joe O’Donoghue, who made a full recovery from a stroke suffered in May 2008, says if we eat a healthy diet, stop smoking and exercise regularly we can reduce our risk of stroke by greater than 50%.