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I Recognized the Signs of a Stroke. Now What?

If you or your loved one experience 1 or more signs of a stroke (Click here for a refresher on the signs of a stroke) you need to take action immediately.  Below are the steps you should take and what to be prepared for at the hospital.

Call 911

Many people believe that they can drive themselves or their loved one to the hospital more quickly than an ambulance.  However, calling an ambulance is the best choice because the paramedics and EMTs are trained to begin treatment right away rather than waiting until you arrive at the hospital.  This is especially important in the event that the stroke symptoms begin to worsen on the way to the hospital.  The ambulance staff will be in contact with the hospital so they will be ready for you when you arrive.  Also, it is important to know that stroke patients are more likely to have imaging (like a CT scan or an MRI) when they come to the hospital via ambulance rather than when they walk in to the waiting room.  The sense of urgency is simply greater when stroke patient arrives by ambulance.

When calling 911, be very clear about the fact that you or your loved one is having stroke symptoms rather than vaguely stating that you need an ambulance.

Know where the nearest PRIMARY STROKE CENTER is

Not all hospitals are created equally when it comes to treating stroke symptoms quickly and efficiently.  “Primary stroke center” is a designation given only to hospitals that follow best practices related to stroke care.  Visit https://www.qualitycheck.org now and type in your zip code to learn where the nearest primary stroke center is.  That way you’ll be prepared if an emergency arises.

Know when the symptoms started

There is only about a 3 hour window for some of the time sensitive treatment options for the stroke patient.  The hospital staff will ask you when the symptoms started.  Be prepared to answer to the best of your ability.  This will help the doctor to determine what treatment options are best.

Know what medications you’re on

The hospital staff will need to know your medication history to determine the best treatment plan.  For example, it is imperative to know if the stroke patient is on blood thinners.  My recommendation is to keep a written medication list at all times.  Update it anytime medications are changed.  Click here to learn more about the one form you must have before you find yourself or your loved one in this situation.

Know your recent medical history

Certain stroke treatment options are ruled out depending on surgeries or procedures that the stroke patient had within a few weeks prior to onset of stroke symptoms.  The hospital staff will ask so be prepared to answer quickly before the 3 hour time window runs out.  Click here to learn more about the one form you must have before you find yourself or your loved one in this situation.

What to expect at the hospital

Everything will move very quickly at the hospital given the time sensitive nature of the matter.  The stroke patient will likely have imaging (like a CT scan or MRI) right away to determine the type of stroke and the location of the stroke.  Vital signs and possibly blood work will also be checked.  Multiple people will ask many of the same questions over and over.  Be prepared to give details about the topics mentioned above.  Once this initial testing is completed, the hospital staff will provide information on the best treatment options.  As a team: you, your loved ones, and the hospital staff will decide how to proceed.


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