TMH Living Well: React FAST to limit damage of stroke |

TMH Living Well: React FAST to limit damage of stroke

Myndi Christopher

A stoke can cause people to act strangely, and sometimes their behaviors are misinterpreted as intoxication or mental illness. There’s the story of a woman who boarded a plane, and after take off she had a stroke. Those around her assumed she was drunk because she slurred her words and her face was lax. Had someone recognized these symptoms as stroke, her outcome would have been much improved.

That’s why it’s good for everyone to know the symptoms of stroke, abbreviated in the acronym FAST. F stands for the face looking uneven, A for an arm hanging down, S for slurred speech and T for time to call 911. Facial numbness and a lack of balance — not being able to walk a straight line — are also signs of stroke.

“Stroke treatment is time sensitive and the quicker an ischemic stroke patient gets a clot dissolving drug treatment known as thrombolytics (e.g. t-PA) the less chance of damage to the brain,” said Dr. Tinh Huyn, emergency medicine physician with TMH.

Huyn stated that recent studies comparing patients who received thrombolytics to those who didn’t had less damage and “better functionality 90 days out.”

According to, a stroke is a type of brain injury. With ischemic strokes, the most common, blood vessels are blocked by a clot depriving the brain of needed oxygen. Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel bursts and leaks blood into the brain.

Strokes are most common in older people with 75 percent occurring in those over 65 year of age, and women tend to have more strokes than men. People with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and people who smoke are at an increased risk for stroke. If you have one or more of these risk factors, prevent future stroke by quitting smoking, lowering your cholesterol by adopting healthy eating habits, and getting your blood pressure under control with medicines.

A stroke is not always easy to diagnose, so having access to stroke-trained neurologists 24/7 through the new telestroke program at The Memorial Hospital can help us all breathe easier. Not only do these stroke experts diagnose, they help speed up treatment decisions, greatly benefiting patients.

“When a stroke patient comes in the ER we run lab tests and a CT scan and share that information quickly with a stroke neurologist through Swedish Hospital/HealthONE. They help with diagnosis and a treatment approach that we can initiate quickly — whether that’s treating with thrombolytics, removing a clot, or transferring the patient down to Swedish,” Huyn said. He added that strokes can mimic migraine headaches, seizures and general weakness so diagnosing stroke is not always straightforward.

TMH Rehabilitation Center helps patients recover from stroke. Stroke effects vary depending on where in the brain the injury occurred and how severe of an injury the person endured. Common effects of stroke include weakness on one side of the body, loss of coordination, having trouble sitting, standing or walking, and problems with speech or cognition.

“As an occupational therapist, I help patients regain functional thinking skills and attention skills, and help reeducate the nerves and muscles in their upper extremities,” said Jill Jonas, OT with the hospital.

Physical therapists at TMH Rehabilitation Center help stroke patients regain strength and nerve and muscle function of the lower extremities, and help patients regain balance.

For more information on the telestroke program or rehab services at TMH call 970-824-9411 or visit

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

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