Stroke is treatable. But every second counts. By learning to spot the signs — and calling 911 immediately — you can save a life.
Stroke Signs: Timing Matters
Nearly 9 in every 10 strokes is a type known as ischemic stroke. This happens when blood flow to the brain is blocked. Without quick treatment, brain cells begin to die.
“When someone is having a stroke, there is a limited amount of time to react,” says Mary Jobson-Oliver, BSN, RN, SCRN, Stroke Coordinator for Inova Mount Vernon Hospital. “Not only because the stroke could be getting worse, but also because there is a short window of time that we can treat a stroke.”
Doctors can give patients a clot-busting medication to restore blood flow into the brain, she adds. But it’s only effective if given within the first 4.5 hours after the stroke begins. In other words: Time is of the essence.
What to Do if You Suspect a Stroke
If you or someone you know might be having a stroke:
- Don’t try to sleep it off or wait to see if symptoms go away. With stroke, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
- Don’t go to your doctor’s office or urgent care. “Stroke is an emergency that needs to be treated in the hospital,” Guditus says.
- Don’t try to drive to the hospital yourself or have a friend or family member drive you. It can be dangerous and delay lifesaving treatment.
- Do call 911 to get emergency care, ASAP.
Why Is It So Important to Call 911?
EMS arrives within minutes to start care. When paramedics arrive, they screen patients for stroke symptoms and begin monitoring vital signs, like blood pressure and oxygen levels. They also know what questions to ask family members for important clues about the patient’s condition and medical history.
Paramedics know where to go when someone is having a stroke. Not all hospitals are equipped with the required personnel and protocols to treat a stroke emergency. EMS will deliver you to the right place at the right time.
What’s more, EMS teams call ahead to the hospital to alert the stroke team to prepare for their arrival. “By calling 911, you go straight to the front of the line,” Jobson-Oliver explains. “When you arrive at the ER, the stroke team is ready for you.”
Timely stroke treatment requires all hands on deck. EMS personnel, the hospital stroke team and the emergency room staff work together to diagnose and treat patients as quickly as possible. That teamwork saves lives.
Stroke Symptoms: Know the Signs
Since rapid treatment is so critical, it’s important to learn to recognize the signs of a stroke.
Often a person having a stroke will be fine one minute — then suddenly not fine. “With stroke, there’s a sudden onset of symptoms,” Jobson-Oliver says.
Still, people don’t always realize that they’re having stroke symptoms. “A lot of the time, family members are the ones who notice there’s something different about the patient,” says Mark Guditus, emergency medical services (EMS) Liaison for Inova Fairfax Medical Campus.
If someone you know is showing worrisome symptoms, call 911. They’ll thank you later.
Stroke Treatment at Inova
Bottom line? Don’t take a chance. If you suspect you or someone near you is showing signs of stroke, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Inova’s Emergency Care locations provide lifesaving treatment 24 hours a day, every day of the year. All five Inova hospital centers are certified stroke centers, here to support you from emergency treatment through recovery, rehabilitation and beyond. Learn more about the Inova Stroke Program, and take our quiz to learn your stroke risk.