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Q: During COVID, is it still the best thing to call 911 when someone is having stroke symptoms or a stroke? What is the best thing to do?

Remember the acronym “BE-FAST” to recognize a stroke. BE-FAST stands for: Balance, Eyes, Facial droop, Arm weakness, Speech— Time to call 911. Take notice if someone suddenly becomes unstable or loses coordination, this could be a loss of balance. Be aware of a sudden loss of vision, blurry vision, or trouble with eyesight. Facial droop is a classic sign of stroke. Check if one side of the person’s face is drooping or feels numb. Ask them to smile and watch to see if their smile is lopsided. Arm or leg weakness on one side of the body is another sign of stroke. Someone may suddenly have a hard time holding objects in one hand, ask them to raise both arms and see if they have trouble raising one side. Slurred speech or difficulty speaking, or understanding can also happen with stroke. Ask them to repeat a simple sentence, they may slur their speech, mumble, or not be able to speak at all. Finally, T is for time, time to call 9-1-1. The signs and symptoms of stroke can sometimes be subtle but will come on suddenly. You must take immediate action, please don’t wait to see if the signs and symptoms will resolve on their own.

COVID has changed our daily lives, but don’t let it change the way you treat an emergency. Time is of the essence when it comes to stroke. We have wonderful treatments for stroke at Maui Memorial Medical Center as a Joint Commission Certified Primary Stroke Center, but time is crucial – therapies to treat a stroke must happen within a set period of time after the stroke has happened or they’re not as effective. Maui Memorial Medical Center is taking many precautions to keep patients and staff safe from COVID-19, including screening everyone entering the hospital, rapid-testing all patients, wearing appropriate PPE, and isolating COVID-positive patients in designated “warm units.”

When someone is having a stroke, every second counts. If you recognize the warning signs and symptoms, don’t wait, call 911 immediately.

Mariah Mossman, RN, Stroke Program Manager
Maui Health