MONTVILLE, NJ – You’re talking to your neighbor and she says something funny. But when she laughs, her smile is asymmetrical. You suspect she could be having a stroke.  Do you take her to the hospital?

“No! Call 9-1-1,” stated Kenna Baker RN, PCCN. “’Time is Brain, Brain is Time.’”

Baker and Connie Mastrangelo, RN, BSN, PCCN, are nurses at Chilton Memorial Hospital, which sponsored a lecture on “Stroke Signs and Prevention” at the Montville Township Public Library on June 4.

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The statement “Time is Brain, Brain is Time” means that every minute counts when dealing with stroke, because there are medications that can be administered that can alleviate the problem, but the window of time to administer them is only four hours.

“Years ago, it was ‘Wait and See,’” said Mastrangelo. “But now, get help immediately.  Dial 9-1-1, and tell them you think you’re having a stroke. This will initiate a series of events to get you the best care.”

Mastrangelo explained that when the dispatcher hears “stroke,” a protocol is enacted that includes sending paramedics to the location in addition to the ambulance. The patient will be transported to the nearest Stroke Center Hospital, which, for many Montville Township residents, is Chilton Hospital. The triage system at the hospital will then be averted, and a CT machine will be reserved to determine where the symptoms are happening.

Baker explained that there are two types of stroke: ischemic and hemorrhagic. “In a hemorrhagic stroke, there is a ‘bleed.’ With an ischemic stroke, the more common of the two, there is a lack of oxygen going to the brain due to an obstruction. The location of the obstruction is determined by what symptoms the patient is showing, such as difficulty speaking.”

After the location of the problem is determined by the CT scan, medication can be given to thin the blood or other procedures are performed to alleviate the problem.

“Strokes don’t always kill, but they do leave the patient in a debilitated state,” explained Mastrangelo. “Think of it as a brain attack – it’s as serious an emergency as a heart attack. Please call for emergency services. I can’t tell you how many patients we’ve seen who have missed the four-hour window.”

“Picture the clot in your brain like a bulls-eye,” stated Baker. “The longer you go without help, the bigger the problem becomes. It’s like it enlarges from the center of the damage area.”

The pair explained that signs that someone is having a stroke include numbness, drooping of one side of the face, difficulty speaking, sudden trouble seeing/blurred vision, loss of coordination, sudden dizziness and sudden/severe headache. However, not all of these symptoms need to be present.  “Just one symptom could be a sign of a stroke,” stated Mastrangelo.

“The word to remember is ‘FAST,’” stated Baker. “’F’ for ‘face’ – ask the person to smile. ‘A’ for ‘arm’ – ask the person to raise both arms. ‘S’ for ‘speech’ – ask the person to speak a simple sentence. And ‘T’ is for ‘time’ – call 9-1-1 if you see any difficulty with these actions.”

“Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States; on average, someone suffers a stroke every 40 seconds,” stated Baker. “But eighty percent of strokes are preventable with risk factor management, which includes keeping weight and cholesterol in check, quitting smoking, and making sure that irregular heartbeat and blood pressure are monitored. If you enjoy alcohol, do so in moderation. Make sure that your diabetes, if you have it, is in control.”

Baker stated that exercising, reducing sodium and fat in the diet, and controlling circulation problems are important components to preventing stroke.

The Montville Township Public Library features seminars, crafts, concerts and classes for kids, adults and families throughout each month.  For more information click LIBRARY.

To learn more about Chilton’s Stroke Center, click HERE.