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Updated on April 1, 2013


The significant publicity campaign used in the UK over recent times to make people aware of how to detect when another is having a stroke, helped me recently when my 90 year old father in law suffered what I now know to be a TIA {transient ischaemic atack to the initiated, a small stroke to you and me}. The advertising campaign is clear and to the point and by name and by nature, stresses the need for fast action to help the sufferer.

We were , as normal, visiting my father in law, who demanded at all times to stay in his own home to preserve his indepedence. A full care package ,supported by good family involvement, had enabled his wishes to be maintained and he was in the house he had lived in for 47 years, when, on that afternoon, I noticed him suddenly change. We had been chatting normally when he suddenly stiffened and his gaze became fixed, his arms shook and his face seemed to twist with one side of his mouth slipping.

Thanks to the "F.A.S.T. campaign I had seen often on TV, I recognised a potential stroke developing and rang for an Ambulance. This, with 2 excellent paramedics, arrived within 20 minutes and tests taken. The paramedics agreed with my feeling and diagnosed a TIA, or slight stroke. He was soon in Hospital , treated and to date, as far as we know has not had a further episide, though sad to say, his general health and dementia have now made it essential that he he resides for the foreseeable future in a Nursing Home where he receives 24 hour care.

I quote the above as an indication that strokes can happen to anyone at anytime and that the more we are all able to recognise the signs, the more chance we have of assisting anyone in our company if they suffer a stroke in front of us. A stroke appears without warning to the onlooker and patient alike, and just as it comes fast, so is fast action needed to help allay the dangers involved.

The F.A.S.T. campaign is effective because of the simplicity it has to present to us all. FAST is the key and the core name of the campaign.The constituents are also simple and directly embody what the onlooker may see when another is having a stroke in front of them:

F is for FACE. The key element for the observer is the face which will often change aspect and especially show a drop in the side of the mouth and be unable to smile if requested to do so..

A is for ARMS. If the sufferer was holding something at the time, it will probably be dropped. If requested to do so, the sufferer will be unable to raise the arms and maintain them in position.

S is for SPEECH. If able to speak at all the sufferer will give slurred speech, often unintelligible to the listener.

T is for TIME. Speed in getting the sufferer to treatment is essential to mitigate the effects of the stroke. The longer the time elapses the more serious the effects are likely to be.

Thus, the basic situation is to recognise the signs and contact specilist help without delay to give the sufferer the best possible chance of recovery in full, or if not that, to give every chance of the effects being minimised. Even in my 90 year old father in law"s case, prompt action saved that particular day.However, in the case of his wife 4 years ago, the signs were not recognised, she did not go to Hospital and the family believe that that was the defining date which projected her to her death some 6 months later. Of course there can be no absolute conviction of that, but had the FAST scheme been operational then, the actions taken would have been different.


A stroke or TIA occurs when blood vessels in the neck become clogged. As with a heart attack, surgery seeks to unblock the area. In a TIA a clot or even a piece of cholesterol blocks the carotoid arteries supplying the head. Thus, initially, the sufferer may become aware of a feeling of dizziness and can even lose conciousness in some cases, or become effectively paralised.

The above can often lead to an even more major stroke and thus, swift treatment is vital. In the UK over 150,000 people suffer a stroke annually of which around 45,000 are caused by disease in the carotid arteries. Brain damage from strokes is the largest cause of disability in adults as a result.

To combat this, now a swift surgical operation can be undertaken. An incision is made into the neck to access the carotid artery that has been affected. The unaffected artery keeps the blood supply to the head and brain going whilst the affected artery is clamped. Reaching the artery is a difficult proceedure that can take up to 45 minutes alone before clamping can take place. Once this is achieved the surgeon can then set to removing the obstructions to the passageway. This part is quicker, around 15 minutes because the plaque that builds up around the artery reducing the diameter of the passageway is constituted of soft, fatty deposits making up the blockage. Once completed, the artery is sewn up and clamps removed allowing normal circulation to be resumed. The big bonus of this operation is the reduction of 30% in the chances of the patient suffering a further attack.

As with many forms of action and activity in saving lives, the research done and the skill of the surgeons are vital to success. However, it should always be at the forefront of all our minds that recognition and swift ,decisive action on the part of the onlooker can, and does in such cases ,play a significant part in avoiding further disasters and can often play a key part in the saving of lives.


Since posting this Hub, I have received various contacts from people who were not aware of F. A. S. T. Some have, like a lady from Malaysia,sent details of how they saw relatives having what they now know to be a stroke, but did not recognise it at the time and wished they had as they could have acted quicker and maybe helped the sufferer avoid the developments that followed. Another has contacted me to say that having read the Hub they were able to act quickly and got swift treatment to a loved one that they are sure helped minimise the effects of the stroke.

Responses like these make writing the Hubs even more worthwhile to me.


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    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      thanks for the FAST info. I wish i had known it earlier. My mom had stroke. She is still recovering . Voted up