Saint Barnabas Medical Center Offers Advice During Stroke Awareness Month

May is National Stroke Awareness Month and The Stroke Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center reminds people that when it comes to a stroke, how fast and where they receive treatment makes a big difference in outcome.

“The earlier a person is evaluated and treated by a stroke team, the greater the chance of lessening or reversing the effects of the stroke,” says Danielle Haskins, MD, board-certified neurologist and Medical Director of the Saint Barnabas Medical Center Stroke Program. “Knowing the signs and symptoms of a stroke can make the difference for you or a loved one.”

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For those who suspect someone is having a stroke, Dr. Haskins advises to just remember the word "FAST.” Each one of the letters stands for a word which you can use to uncover a symptom of stroke.

F = facial weakness; ask the person to smile to test for facial weakness

A = arm weakness; ask the person to hold his/her arms straight out in front of him/her to see if one drifts

S = speech disturbance; ask the person to say a simple sentence (the cow jumped over the moon) to see if he/she is able to understand and repeat it

T = time to call 911

Almost half of all stroke patients arrive at the emergency room by their own means. Dr. Haskins strongly advises against it. “If you or someone near you is exhibiting any sign of stroke, call 911. Transport by an ambulance is best for getting to the Emergency Room," she says.  “Doing so allows emergency medical personnel the proper time to mobilize resources such as a CAT scan and the stroke team ahead of the patient’s arrival.”

Dr. Haskins cautions that stroke does not discriminate, and although some people are at higher risk than others due to lifestyle and family history, anyone can have a stroke. Treatable risk factors include: hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol and heart problems.

People often wait to see if their symptoms will go away and unwittingly put themselves in greater danger. Symptoms that last for only a few minutes and then subside may indicate a transient ischemic attack or TIA. “A TIA or ‘mini-stroke’ is a serious medical event and requires treatment; it is also a potential warning sign of more dangerous stroke in the future. Seeking medical care during a TIA may help physicians prevent future stroke,” says Dr. Haskins.

As a state-designated comprehensive stroke center and Joint Commission certified advanced primary stroke center, The Stroke Center at Saint Barnabas provides the highest level of care for stroke patients and their families. A team of medical and surgical professionals, available around the clock, provides the rapid evaluation and initiation of treatment for stroke by using the most advanced approaches and technologies, including an on-site Neurovascular Intervention Program.

For more information or to reach The Stroke Center at Saint Barnabas, please call 973- 322-9742 or visit  If you think you or a person with you is having a stroke DON’T WAIT, call 911 immediately.