Stroke Awareness Is More Than Three Symptoms

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   Can we talk about F.A.S.T and how much I dislike it?

    You probably can’t tell by this blog or anything associated with it that I am an advocate for stroke awareness. My procrastination skills reach super hero levels when it comes to this blog.  It’s easier to share the information as I get it and since I run this blog anonymously it would mean logging out of everything as myself and logging back in as Kt Murray (my blog me) every time I find something interesting or useful to share.   It’s inconvenient.

    Okay, so F.A.S.T is supposed to be this quick and easy way to share stroke awareness but I think everything about it pulls your attention away from it. A few quick examples: they use older people and they choose the more obvious symptoms to showcase.  Every time I see this graphic or a similar one I close the window.  For one, it’s boring and for another, it doesn’t fit.

   I’m actually borderline offended by how simple they make it.  Look, strokes are pretty damn serious.  The symptoms can range from minor to major; age of patient can be in the womb to already close to natural death.  To cut stroke down to three symptoms, albeit the most recognizable of them all, and the most crucial piece of information of what to do in case of stroke, seems offensively simplistic to me.

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   I have no idea where this graphic comes from but in my opinion it’s much better. There are a lot more words and the colors are less attractive but…cartoons and doodles, man.  Who can’t understand cartoons and doodles?     Hospitals have cartoon pain charts for a reason: People are kind of stupid.  The information below the anagram is super important but the anagram itself is more commanding, more of a directive than a suggestion and I think that’s more effective in spreading awareness.

  The three obvious symptoms of stroke are F. facial drooping, A. arm or limb of one side may feel heavier, S. speech may be impaired, sound slurred.  And then they tack on T. time is of the essence.  If only stroke was this brief and simple.  It may be because I know this as a survivor but I think when people see F.A.S.T they see what they already know. It’s likely they know/knew a grandparent that has had a stroke to some degree.  This info we mechanically add to the graphic showing older people experiencing these symptoms allows us to continue misunderstanding the risk stroke poses to each of us.

    Now look at those lovely cartoon people.  Already, you see that there is no barrier in regards to age (although one might assume stroke is still adults only)Adults_only  Instantly the message is clear BE FAST.  It puts you on alert right away.  There are the two common muted symptoms of stroke that we all dismiss right before we stroke out and it’s the first listed, exactly how it needs to be.  Information I’ve gathered from forums, survivor groups, websites, and comment threads but for some reason is not mentioned in most of the texts I’ve read on strokes is this: Not everyone experiences loss of movement but most stroke survivors experienced loss of balance and one eye seeming “off” days prior to stroke.

   Your equilibrium is off key and your vision, while there, may seem temporarily absent– kind of like an instant migraine that hits your eye like a sharp jab then dissipates within seconds…maybe that’s just me.  It’s like when you rub one eye really hard and you can see through it but you can’t really see through it.  These are easily dismissed by most of us as flukes in our systems because they can pass quickly.  Sometimes it lingers which naturally causes concern but more often than not, it comes and goes just enough to be noticed but not remembered.

   Sometimes there’s accompanying symptoms like nausea, confusion, phantom smells and tingles on one side of the body.  Sometimes it’s a persistent neck cramp or body ache that you know isn’t right.  Because we have other causes to pin these things on: pinched nerve, tension, bad lunch meat, we tend to look the other way when our body’s warning us that something really awful is trying to happen and you need to prepare.  This is why it’s crucial to spread awareness.

    While there are physically obvious symptoms of stroke, there are other “smaller” symptoms that can occur days before an event.  Singularly, we may dismiss each one and nothing will happen but collectively they can be signals of a far more serious threat.  In order to increase survival rate from stroke, people should know that there are warning signs before those that tell you there’s already significant bleeding in the brain or loss of  oxygen to the brain. So while it’s not convenient or economically sound to speed off for urgent care because you feel dizzy, it’s important to know what else you should be aware of in case of stroke; so remember, BE FAST.

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