What to do if you suspect someone of having a stroke

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Recognizing stroke signs could save a person’s life. Strokes are often sudden and require immediate attention.

You could be a victim anywhere: at the dinner table or bus stop. Discussing something with someone. You notice that your companion’s voice is slurred, and his face is drooping. You ask, “Are we OK?” but you know something is wrong.

The doctors, nurses, and other UCI Health Comprehensive Stroke & Cerebrovascular Center members would like to bring attention to the importance of quick and expert treatment to boost recovery and survival.

UCI Health, Orange County’s only Joint Commission-certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, is committed to stroke treatment, prevention, and the most advanced treatment.

“Every minute counts,” explains Dr. Steven C. Cramer, a UCI Health neurosurgeon. Steven C. Cramer is an expert on stroke and stroke recovery. Every minute, millions of brain cells die before the stroke is treated.

The first step is to learn how to recognize the tell-tale signs – face drooping, lack of control over arms, and slurred or mumbled speech – collectively known under the acronym Fast. The second step is to know how to react quickly.

Cramer explains what to do and not to do when caring for someone experiencing a stroke.


  • Call 9-1-1 instead of driving to the hospital. Paramedics can be faster, and they can recognize when someone needs help. They will also have direct contact with hospitals so that the hospital has time to prepare. The hospital may direct paramedics responding to the call to a designated Stroke Center. These hospitals have 24/7 specialized doctors and use advanced diagnostic and treatment technologies.
  • Do not give the person Aspirin. For many strokes, Aspirin can be a good idea, but for other strokes, it will make matters worse. A CT scan is required to determine which group a stroke patient belongs to. You could cause serious harm if you administer Aspirin to a patient before knowing which group they belong to.
  • Do not give the person food or drinks. A stroke can affect muscle control and the ability to swallow. Cramer says that choking is more likely to occur if someone is experiencing a stroke. In this situation, even water can be hazardous.

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  • Call 911 immediately. Every minute that the brain is without oxygen causes it to lose 1.9 million neuronal cells. This is why every second counts. Cramer says, “We say ‘Time Is Brain.'” “During a brain stroke, millions of nerve cells are lost that cannot replaced.
  • Tell the dispatcher that you believe a stroke may be underway.
  • Note down the time. It will help the emergency team act as efficiently as they can. Doctors can determine the best treatment if they know when symptoms began. Knowing when someone was last “normal” can be helpful if you don’t know when symptoms began.
  • Encourage the person to lie down. A brain stroke can lead to dizziness, difficulty controlling movement, and even paralysis. Stroke victims should kept on their sides with their heads slightly raised to encourage blood flow. This may help slow down the process. Cramer says, “Help them to lie down and feel comfortable.” If the person has suffered head and neck injuries, we don’t move them to prevent a spinal cord injury.
  • Remove any restrictive clothing. This will help the stroke victim to breathe easier. Do not pull or strain any weak limbs.
  • If a person is unconscious, ensure they breathe and check their pulse. If there isn’t a pulse, start CPR right away.
  • Unlock your front door. Allow paramedics to have unrestricted access to a possible stroke victim.
  • Remain calm and by their side. Although it can be difficult, remember that you are there to assist. The person will likely confused and scared. Speak softly and stay close. Assuring the person of help on the way.
  • Tell the paramedics what happened. Cramer says, “Be clear when you tell them when the symptoms began and the last time the person appeared normal.” Cramer says that if someone has a stroke and wakes up, they will have last appeared normal when they went to sleep.

Credit: TheWebHealth.com