Podcast: Holy Family’s Macdougall Stresses People to ‘BE FAST’ When Stroke Symptoms Appear

Holy Family Hospital, Haverhill campus. (WHAV News file photograph.)

As the month of May nears a close, there’s still time to take notice of National Stroke Awareness Month.

Lisa Macdougall, Holy Family Hospital’s stroke coordinator at. Macdougall, explains symptoms of stroke may come on suddenly, which is why they have a memorable acronym.

“That acronym is BE FAST We want you to BE FAST when you think you are having symptoms of a stroke. What that stands for is the B is Balance. All of a sudden you’re off balance or you are very dizzy. And, it comes on all of a sudden. The E in BE FAST is your eyes. Suddenly you’re having a vision change in one or both eyes. The F in BE FAST is your face. Perhaps part of your face is drooping or suddenly you have a headache that affects your head. The A stands for your arms. Weakness or numbness, particularly if it’s in one arm versus both arms. The S stands for speech. If you suddenly have trouble speaking or someone that you’re watching seems to be confused or having garbled speech. And the last letter is T for time. It’s time to call 9-1-1 if you see any of these symptoms. So, we really try to push BE FAST when you see signs or symptoms of a stroke,” she said.

Macdougall, a recent guest on WHAV’s morning show, says people having a stroke, or stroke-like symptoms, must get to the hospital fast.

“Frequently, what people do is they try to drive themselves to the hospital, which is not what we want them to do. We would really prefer for them to call 9-1-1. The treatment for stroke starts in the ambulance. So, we really want to make sure they are not driving themselves or they are not having a loved one drive them to the hospital if they see any of these symptoms. It’s very important to call 9-1-1,” she explained.

Macdougall says strokes are caused by blood clots to the brain. When the brain lacks its supply of blood, it starts to die at a rate of about two million cells a minute.

“We’ve only got a very short window of time in which to treat you if you are indeed having a stroke, because a stroke is caused by a blood clot that generally goes up to your brain and is blocking the circulation to your brain. So, we want to get that clot out of the way. So, we can either give you medication to try to break down that clot, or, if you meet certain criteria in some cases, we can send you into Boston and they will actually pull that clot out, called a thrombectomy, but again, they only have 24 hours from the time that your symptoms start to be able to do that,” she added.

Macdougall says Holy Family Hospital is designated as a primary stroke center through the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, meaning they have the ability to treat those having a stroke or stroke-like symptoms. The chances of suffering from a stroke increase as people age or have medical conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

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