Stroke: Why Calling 911 Should be Easy

May 19th, 2016

It’s likely you’ve been there. That moment when you must decide. “Do I call 911?”

It’s easy to make that call when you see an accident or a crime in progress. It should also be that easy when you see someone having a stroke.

The American Stroke Association makes it easy for you. Remember the word FAST and look for sudden onset of any one of the following symptoms:

  • F. Facial drooping. It’s typically on one side of the face.
  • DO THIS: Ask the person to smile. Is the person’s smile uneven? Does one side of the face droop or is it numb?

  • A. Arm weakness or numbness.. It’s typically on one side of the face.
  • DO THIS: Ask the person to raise both of their arms in front of them. Does one arm drift downward or is it numb?

  • S. Slurred speech or inability to speak.. A person having a stroke may not be able to pronounce correctly, or they simply can’t even find the words to speak.
  • DO THIS: Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?

  • T. Time. Time is not a symptom, but it’s your reminder that time is of the essence and to take action. There’s a 72% chance that this is a stroke.
  • DO THIS:If any one of the symptoms above last for more than five minutes, call 911.

Are you still unsure about whether to call 911?

Consider this. Maybe it’s not a stroke, but how do you know? Emergency responders and paramedics will know. If you are unsure, let the EMS assess the patient and make the decision. At least you made the call.

911 is critical in the process, because EMS can diagnose the stroke in the field. Also, they can then alert the entire medical team at the hospital—lab, imaging, doctors–all the people who need to be ready for the stroke patient. Imagine the critical time saved when the medical team is ready and waiting for the arrival. That can’t happen without the call to 911.

Driving yourself or a loved one? Not advised.

Driving yourself or a loved one to the Emergency Room during an active stroke is a dangerous risk. Stroke symptoms can progress rapidly. Obviously, if you’re having the stroke and driving yourself, you and other motorists are at risk. Additionally, driving someone to the hospital with stroke symptoms is not recommended. Consider it the worst kind of “distracted driving.” If symptoms got worse, you would be unable to provide supportive care. Plus, without the call to 911, the hospital will not have key personnel ready as quickly.

It takes a village. Stroke lives are being saved in southern Illinois.

We know. Stroke happens in your homes or at work or play. Southern Illinois is spread out. There are a limited number of stroke neurologists available. That’s why the SIH Brain & Spine Institute in Carbondale connected with local hospitals to work together in this effort.

Two area hospitals are designated Advanced Primary Stroke Centers:

  • Memorial Hospital of Carbondale
  • Herrin Hospital

With a little help from technology, the stroke neurologists are also only a click away as they remote in to assess the patient via innovative telemedicine. The following hospitals are in the SIH Stroke Network and can deliver the essential clot-busting medication to save lives and reduce disability:


We all must work together. Do your part and call 911. We’ll do ours. Together, we are allies in the fight against stroke.